Thomas Speckhardt stands on his property line next to a power line easement in Issaquah. The line was recently reclaimed by Bonneville Power Administration from Puget Sound Energy and the company is hoping to expand vegetation clearance around it. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Thomas Speckhardt stands on his property line next to a power line easement in Issaquah. The line was recently reclaimed by Bonneville Power Administration from Puget Sound Energy and the company is hoping to expand vegetation clearance around it. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

BPA could remove thousands of trees along Eastside transmission lines

The maintenance would affect power lines running from Renton to Monroe.

Bonneville Power Administration is planning to remove hundreds and possibly thousands of trees along a transmission line stretching from Renton to Monroe beginning next month.

The decision comes after Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal energy corporation, reclaimed the line from Puget Sound Energy after a 50-year lease expired last fall. The two companies have different standards and trimming schedules for lines they manage, which means BPA will increase the clearance area around the transmission lines by around 26 feet. This will include removing trees, shrubs and undergrowth along 53 miles of line.

Kevin Wingert, spokesperson for BPA, said they usually remove vegetation even further, up to 75 feet on either side of the center line, for a full clearance of their easement. Clearing plants helps protect the lines from falling trees or from electricity jumping to nearby trees and shrubs beneath. This protects the property and the reliability of the grid. Puget Sound Energy removed vegetation from around 36 feet on either side. BPA has proposed increasing this to 62.5 feet on either side.

Puget Sound Energy also removes trees from around its power lines, but whereas the entity provide service in Washington state, Wingert said BPA provides service across much of the West Coast and maintains around 15,000 miles of line. Puget Sound Energy trims on a yearly schedule while BPA trims in three-year cycles, Wingert said.

“That’s kind of the crux of the story at a really high level as you’re looking at the difference in the line when it was under Puget and the line when it came back to BPA,” he said.

The plan has caused concern among some residents like Thomas Speckhardt whose property just outside Issaquah city limits near Issaquah Christian Church — and a community well that serves several houses — is located near the line. On a recent rainy afternoon, he donned his work boots and walked out to the easement that abuts his backyard. Speckhardt has goats that graze on some of the vegetation.

Speckhardt is worried that the plan, which includes the use of herbicides, could impact his well along with wetlands in the area and run-off that enters nearby streams. At an open house on March 6, Speckhardt said representatives of BPA were asking landowners where wells and other water infrastructure were located.

“It’s just showing that they signed off on this without really realizing what the impact was,” he said.

A system-wide environmental impact statement was completed in 2000 and has been updated for new projects, Wingert said. A supplementary analysis was completed for this project, which includes the Sammamish-Maple Valley Line 1 and the Monroe Novelty Hill Line 1. Wingert said they will not apply herbicide within 162 feet of wellheads and or within 100 feet of wetlands and other bodies of water. However, BPA can apply herbicides within 35 feet of water sources that are not classified as sensitive habitat areas.

An initial estimate of tree loss was pegged at around 3,000 trees if the entire right-of-way were cleared. After hearing concerns from landowners, BPA adjusted its clearing to only 83 percent of its easement, up from around 56 percent that Puget Sound Energy maintained. It isn’t known how many trees would now be affected.

Speckhardt said he was concerned that general BPA clearance standards may not be applicable to these lines, and that a one-size-fits-all approach might not be effective for a line that runs through cities, mountains and countryside.

“Essentially BPA is imposing this internal standard on this 53 miles of line,” he said.

Transmission lines could be put underground, but according to the BPA website, this would cost between $8 million to $12 million per mile, at least 10 times the cost of above-ground structures. If the plan moves ahead, crews could begin clearing vegetation from along the power line’s route in April.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

A map of the transmission lines which Bonneville Power Administration is planning on clearing vegetation from. From Bonneville Power Administration

A map of the transmission lines which Bonneville Power Administration is planning on clearing vegetation from. From Bonneville Power Administration

More in News

A South King Fire & Rescue firefighter places a used test swab into a secure COVID test vial on Nov. 18, 2020, at a Federal Way testing site. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Masks are still king in combating new COVID strains

A top UW doctor talks new strains, masks and when normal could return.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democrats look to allow noncitizens to serve on school boards

A Senate bill takes aim at a state law requiring anyone seeking elected office to be a citizen.

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State health leader: We have a plan, we don’t have the supply

Two months after the COVID vaccine landed in Washington, many still struggle to secure their shots.

An Island Park Elementary teacher and her students hit the books on Feb. 8 in the Mercer Island School District. The single largest amount of Gov. Jay Inslee’s newly announce relief package, $668 million, will go to public elementary and secondary schools to prepare for reopening for some in-person learning and to address students’ learning loss. Courtesy photo
Inslee signs $2.2 billion COVID relief package

The federal funds will go to fight COVID, aid renters and reopen shuttered schools and businesses.

File photo
How the pandemic and coronavirus variants can show us evolution in real time

Scientists say viruses reproduce and mutate at higher rates, creating viral variants.

Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, an ob-gyn with the University of Washington School of Medicine and senior author of the report (Photo Credit: University of Washington School of Medicine)
UW study shows high COVID infection rates among pregnant women

Study shows infection rates to be two to four times higher than expected among minority groups.

File photo
Everett online heroin and meth dealer sentenced for mailing drugs nationwide

Todd Peterman-Dishion of Everett, let go by Boeing and addicted, turned to dark internet commerce.

Of the 84 schools that had COVID-19 outbreaks across the state, 69% were public schools and the remaining were private schools, according to a new report. Courtesy photo
State releases data on COVID outbreaks in schools

A new statewide report outlines how COVID-19 outbreaks have moved through Washington… Continue reading

Spring Chinook salmon. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Report: Washington salmon are in hot water

Ten of the 14 salmon species listed as endangered are in crisis.

Most Read