Crag is representing a group of concerned residents across Oregon who have joined forces to oppose construction of the massive, nearly 300-mile-long, Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) high-voltage transmission line. Crag, along with co-counsel Dave Becker, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Pendleton, Oregon on November 12, 2019, on behalf of Stop B2H Coalition, Greater Hells Canyon Council, and several individuals. The coalition charged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service with failure to adequately review the impact of the route Idaho Power has proposed for the B2H transmission line across five eastern Oregon counties.
The suit addresses the federal agencies’ failure to adequately evaluate the need for and environmental effects of the line, which would cause harm to family farms, residential areas and wildlife habitat. Jim Kreider, Co-Chairperson for Stop B2H Coalition, explained: “Public comment on the federal environmental review closed more than four and a half years ago, long before Idaho Power completed its design for the project. The transmission line route was changed to pass within 2,000 feet of homes in La Grande, and there has been a lot of new information about the project’s likely destructive impacts on eastern Oregon. We are trying to prevent catastrophic damage to our public and private lands by an out-of-state corporation which prioritizes profits for its shareholders.”
The groups are also concerned with likely public safety hazards along the project route, including geologic instability and excessive noise near homes, recreation areas and campgrounds. The B2H project would also crisscross the Oregon Trail’s historic ruts and viewsheds—yet BLM refused to consider a citizen-proposed alternative of burying the line for less than two miles in front of the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker County, where 40,000 people come each year to admire the historic Trail.
“This power line would literally cut a permanent destructive swath through local forests and grasslands,” said Brian Kelly, restoration director for Greater Hells Canyon Council of La Grande, who also expressed concerns for BLM’s failure to adequately address impacts on wildlife corridors, clean water, climate change, habitat for elk, deer, salmon, and more. “We must protect these values that are so important for all of us.” The groups argue that BLM underestimated the line’s impacts on several resources, including Morgan Lake Park and the habitat of imperiled plants, fish and birds—including the Greater sage-grouse, whose Oregon population in 2019 reached its lowest level in three decades—as well as the likely spread of invasive weeds on public lands and family farms. “In addition to those obvious deficiencies,” Kreider went on to say that “technological changes in the utility industry have made Idaho Power’s 12-year-old proposal obsolete.”
The Stop B2H Coalition is a non-political, grassroots organization of 700 individuals and a growing number of member organizations. Our purpose is to fight the proposed B2H transmission line through NE Oregon, thereby protecting environmental, historical and cultural resources; preventing degradation of timber and agricultural lands and the Oregon National Historic Trail; and promoting renewable energy, conservation, storage and distribution. www.stopb2h.org
Greater Hells Canyon Council was founded in 1967. They seek to connect, protect, and restore the Greater Hells Canyon Region. www.hellscanyon.org