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How Our Oregon Trail Could Be Changing ... Forever

Towers on the Trail 

An estimated 80,000 early pioneers arrived in Oregon on the Oregon Trail, passing over the American West and etching their journey in miles of wagon wheel ruts. These ruts stand witness to an historic and epic journey, the evidence still visible almost two centuries later. But as Smithsonian magazine put it back in 2016, some of these ruts are in “danger of destruction as municipalities push to stretch bigger and better power supplies across the region.” That’s the case in Oregon, where a long-proposed project could change the view forever.  Read the full article here.

The Opposition Argument

At issue is a proposed high-voltage power line that would run 300 miles from Boardman, Oregon, to Hemingway, Idaho, known as B2H. Depending on one’s perspective, B2H will either build capacity and flexibility to support population growth and new industries, or destroy sensitive wildlife habitat, spoil views for residents along the line and visitors to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, and trash the Oregon Trail. The latter view is espoused by the nonprofit Stop B2H Coalition, whose membership consists of 600 individuals—farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, wildlife protectionists, residents in five counties the line will cross and individuals intent on preserving the Oregon Trail. The grassroots opposition, based in La Grande, also has allies in organizations such as the Oregon-California Trails Association, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Oregon Wild, Greater Hells Canyon Council and WildLands Defense.

   

The Money Battle

In the works for more than a decade, the $1 billion to $1.2 billion project will create a transmission line that carries 500 kilovolts, about twice the amount of electricity that runs through other high-voltage lines, and will feature towers as tall as 190 feet in some places. The project must win approval from state and federal agencies that either own land along the route or regulate development of new energy facilities. So far, Idaho Power and its partners are winning the regulatory battle, with the Oregon Department of Energy recommending approval of the proposed facility.

   

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