SALEM (AP) — A proposed electrical transmission line in northwestern Oregon has run into opposition from landowners in its path.
The Tillamook Public Utility District says the 8.6-mile line between Tillamook and Oceanside will improve the reliability of the electrical grid. Currently, a single distribution line serves about 3,000 properties in the Oceanside area, which is three times more prone to outages than other areas on the grid, said Todd Simmons, the district's general manager.
"When that line goes out, everybody's out of power until we make that repair," Simmons told the Capital Press newspaper. "We're vulnerable with that one line."
The Oregon Farm Bureau and Oregon Dairy Farmers Association are among those concerned about the line that would cross farmland and forestland.
Dairy farmer Kurt Mizee said the line is problematic for several reasons, including "stray voltage," which occurs when electricity essentially leaks into the ground. The phenomenon is known to reduce milk production among dairy cows.
The transmission line would also prevent aerial pesticide spraying over certain fields and its construction would disrupt grazing and silage harvesting, Mizee said.
"They've offered us almost nothing as far as compensation for a pretty big impact," he said.
Landowners are also worried that exposure to electromagnetic emissions could sicken themselves and their livestock, said Cameron La Follette, executive director of the Oregon Coast Alliance conservation group.
The sides are expected to clash throughout 2018 as the utility district tries to obtain key permits: a conditional-use permit from Tillamook County, a fill-removal permit from the Department of State Lands and eminent domain authority from the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
La Follette and other opponents argue the proposed line isn't justified by electricity demand, and might be intended as a connection to future offshore energy projects.
A decade ago, the district agreed to find possible connection points for a wind-energy project to deliver electricity to its grid. That agreement has since expired and the utility district said it has no current plans to connect to such offshore projects.