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About East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current | View Entire Issue (July 6, 2019)
OFF PAGE ONE
Saturday, July 6, 2019
Staff photo by Ben Lonergan
Members of the Stop B2H Coalition (from left to right) Ryan Browne, Jim
Kreider, Fuji Kreider, Irene Gilbert and John Williams stand along the Ore-
gon Trail. The proposed transmission line would pass just behind them.
Staff photo by Ben Lonergan
The hillside behind Irwin Smutz’s house is along the proposed route of the Boardman to Hemingway Transmis-
sion Line. The towers for the line would be more than twice the height of those already on the hill, according to
the Stop B2H Coalition.
B2H: Fighting for the land
Continued from Page A1
Fuji Kreider said the coalition
now counts upwards of 500 indi-
vidual members and multiple sup-
porting organizations, including
Oregon Rural Action, the Blue
Mountain Alliance and Greater
Hells Canyon Council.
Members span the gamut of
backgrounds and ideologies. Coa-
lition board member Irene Gilbert
owns a gun shop, is a conserva-
tive and voted for Donald Trump
for president. Fuji Krieder can’t
stand Trump and is a pacifist.
Norm Cimon used to build com-
puter networks and digs into data.
Lois Barry taught English at East-
ern Oregon University. Many are
landowners who don’t want the
line to cross their property.
All the differences drop away,
they said, to the singular end of
stopping the power line.
“I think that’s what makes us
unique,” Fuji Krieder said.
Beyond their own
From Idaho Power’s early pro-
posal to now, the effect that both-
ers Baker County opponents uni-
versally is how the power line
towers, standing as tall as 180
feet, would affect iconic views of,
and from, the Oregon Trail Inter-
pretive Center on Flagstaff Hill,
about 5 miles east of Baker City.
When Idaho Power proposed
B2H in 2007, Deschner was liv-
ing in the foothills of the Wallowa
Mountains about 25 miles north-
east of Baker City. He said an
early proposed route would have
put the power line within about 3
miles of his home.
“That’s what really disturbed
me,” he said.
Idaho Power nixed that route,
and Deschner since moved to
Baker City, but his opposition to
B2H expanded and solidified.
Deschner said he considers the
current route, which would put
the towers and suspended wires
on the east side of Baker Valley,
less than 2 miles from the inter-
pretive center, a “slap in the face”
to Baker County and to the role
the interpretive center plays in the
county’s tourism industry. Since
opening in May 1992, more than
2.3 million people have visited
the center, which is owned and
operated by the federal Bureau of
Fuji Krieder said when the
group formed, it would have been
easy for opponents to dismiss
their concerns as mere “NIMBY-
ism” — not in my back yard-ism.
Her husband, Jim Krieder, said
negative effects on scenic views
are only one deep concern.
“That’s why we’re not move
B2H, we’re stop B2H,” he said.
Ryan Browne manages his
family’s land near Morgan Lake
outside La Grande. They lease
land to cattle ranchers, and
Wednesday he stood on a slope
covered in wild grass while a bur-
ly-looking black Angus eyed him
from a low point next to the worn
marker noting The Oregon Trail.
Over yonder, utility poles jut
up 80 feet to hold 230-kilovolt
lines. The poles make the tallest
pines there look modest. The B2H
poles would will dwarf everything
around. And the 300-foot right-of-
way B2H requires will push close
to this section of the historic trail.
Browne said that’s the problem.
“How do you mitigate for
that?” he said. “Is this really a util-
Browne ambled up the hill
to another section of the trail
and pointed out how the nar-
row wooden wagons would have
careened their way through this
topography. He questioned why
Idaho Power could get state and
local approval to build so close.
“You’re not seeing a mil-
lion-dollar house here,” he said.
“You’re not seeing structures.
Clearly we protect it, too. For us,
it’s about preserving this history
for future generations.”
Turning lights out on the
Land along Twin Lake near
Morgan Lake has been in John
Williams’ family since 1956.
Pines, firs, native grasses and
flowers cover the land. Lily pads
spread over Twin Lake, and Wil-
liams pointed to where eagles
recently nested on the far side of
The big power line, he said,
would go right through the area.
Worse still, he said, the proposal
calls for the lines to cross nearby
The feature is a wide clearing
on a slow incline that Williams
and others said is a prime elk calv-
ing site. The elk like the location,
Williams said, because it also
has several escape routes. Wil-
liams and other coalition mem-
bers contend the B2H project car-
ries the power to disrupt all of this
Brian Kelly said the wide ease-
ment the project calls for means
clear-cutting. He is the restoration
director of the Greater Hells Can-
yon Council and is an active coa-
lition member. Forests sequester
carbon, he said, and help reduce
the effects of global warming.
Cutting down swaths of trees at
least as wide as a football field for
mile after mile undoes that and
harms animal ecosystems.
“We keep chopping up the
landscape into smaller and smaller
pieces, and it will have an effect,”
The anti-B2H crowd also con-
tended the line threatens the Ladd
Marsh Wildlife Area about 7
miles south of La Grande in the
southwest corner of the Grande
Ronde Valley. Ladd Marsh spans
6,000 acres, according to the Ore-
gon Department of Fish and Wild-
life, and is the largest hardstem
bulrush wetland remaining in
northeast Oregon. The marsh is
home to dozens of species of wild-
life, from mule and white-tailed
deer to weasels and screech owls.
The state fish and game depart-
ment each spring hosts a festival
for migratory bird viewing at the
The power line would trans-
verse Irwin Smutz’s land sev-
eral hundred feet from the marsh.
Power lines, petroleum lines, nat-
ural gas lines and fiber optics
already cross his land, he said,
and the first lines went in when he
was a boy and his father made the
deals. But Smutz said he does not
want Idaho Power to build on his
The hillside behind his home
is unsteady, he said, and each year
creeps a little lower. As a geolo-
gist once told him, he said, that’s
what hills do. But, he said, he wor-
ries major construction for a mas-
sive power line would exacerbate
Deschner in Baker City said
he fears vehicles used in building
B2H would spread noxious weeds
across the farming and ranch-
ing land, and the line itself, once
energized, would pose a wildfire
Deschner and Marlette pointed
to the 2018 fire that destroyed Par-
adise, California, and killed 85
people. Investigators determined
earlier this year Pacific Gas and
Electric Co. power lines sparked
New tech better than bigger
Norm Cimon of La Grande
joined the chorus in oppos-
ing the line for what he called
“gut-wrenching change to the util-
The industry relies on a
100-year-old model for producing
and delivering energy from the top
down to customers, he explained,
but a paradigm shift has custom-
ers producing power or not relying
on corporations for power.
The New Hampshire Pub-
lic Utilities Commission in Janu-
ary gave Liberty Utilities the OK
to implement a pilot program to
install 500 Tesla Powerwall 2 bat-
teries behind the meter at custom-
ers’ homes to achieve customer
savings through peak load reduc-
tions. Vermont in May initiated
a similar program. Cimon con-
tended these are the forefront of
what’s to come.
“In 10 years, the changes in the
industry will make the line obso-
lete,” he said.
(The current schedule calls
for construction potentially start-
ing in 2022, and the line carrying
power by 2026.)
He also asserted Idaho Power
claims it is seeing growth that
demands the company build the
line while the company’s own
data reveals the average individ-
ual residential power use is drop-
ping, from about 14,000 kilowatt
hours per customer in 1997 to less
than 12,000 in 2015.
And Marlette cited recent news
reports showing Idaho Power’s
plans to increase its renewable
energy portfolio, including a deal
the company announced in March
to purchase 120 megawatts of
solar power from a company that
plans to build a solar array south
of Twin Falls, Idaho.
The process favors the
Years ago, landscaper Kerry
Tweit bought 53 acres outside La
Grande for his dream home.
“I was looking for view prop-
erties with privacy, and that’s
what I got,” he said.
He met land use demands from
Union County for the self-cool-
ing and self-heating house when
the Oregon Department of Fish
and Wildlife opposed where he
wanted to build because it would
disturb an animal corridor. He
moved to one end of property.
“So I did that — got it rezoned,”
One day he got a tip someone
was on his property. Tweit said it
was a Bonneville Power Admin-
istration crew building a road. He
said he gave them 5 minutes to
pack up and get out or he would
call the sheriff to arrest them.
Bonneville Power made him
an offer, he said: $75,000 for an
easement. He took the deal.
But the check never came, he
said. After three-and-half years,
a hundred phone calls and the
threat of legal action, he said he
Now, Idaho Power shows up.
He said the county knew about the
power line before he did but did
not tell him. Idaho Power let him
know his dream house would be
too close to the site for the power
lines, he said. A company man
told him there are two options —
move the line or move his house.
“He joked and said it might be
Staff photo by Ben Lonergan
John Williams, a landowner who would face a direct impact if the pro-
posed line passes through his property, discusses the concerns he has
about the addition of service roads through his property.
Staff photo by Ben Lonergan
Fuji Kreider speaks about the obsolescence that the line would face with-
in the decade following its installation. Kreider believes that the line
would be made obsolete by microgrid technology and renewable energy
within the next decade or two.
cheaper to move my house,” Tweit
Tweit is not laughing.
“If they really want to do it,
they’re going to do it,” he said.
Fuji Kreider said Tweit’s story
is all too common. The $5 billion
corporation has the resources to
push through its project, and the
process favors Goliath over David.
Irene Gilbert dubs herself the
coalition’s “legal analyst.” She
worked in the bureaucracy of
Oregon Occupational Safety and
Health, she said, and that prepared
her for this.
“I guess you can call me a
zealot if you like,” she said, but
someone has to read and glean the
government and corporate speak
in the thousands of pages doc-
umenting the B2H project. The
amount of documents alone, she
said, makes challenging Idaho
Power a task too big for just one
Lois Barry, the retired univer-
sity instructor, argued the state’s
energy facility siting process even
disadvantages its own employ-
ees, and by extension, the people
of Oregon. The corporation sub-
mits the application for a big proj-
ect, she said, but the state lacks an
independent body to provide key
“Who would they call if they
have a question?” she asked.
“They call Idaho Power.”
Marlette said she has been dis-
appointed in the lack of response
to her requests for help from Ore-
gon’s congressional delegation
and from Gov. Kate Brown.
“Nothing has been done,” she
The process that started in 2007
has included meeting after meet-
ing in five Eastern Oregon coun-
ties — Malheur, Baker, Union,
Umatilla and Morrow. The most
recent was in June, when the Ore-
gon Energy Facility Siting Coun-
cil, the seven-member board that
will decide whether to approve
B2H, took public comment.
Deschner read a prepared
statement at the June 19 hearing in
Baker City, and said he will con-
tinue to attend meetings, but he
also said he is skeptical his efforts,
and the testimony and written
objections from other opponents,
will influence the council’s deci-
sion. He described the approval
process as a “kangaroo court.”
“It’s a really insidious process,”
Deschner and others said they
believed from the start Idaho
Power would get its way. The
question was not whether the line
would be built, but where and
“We were never given the
choice — do we want it or not —
and that disturbed me,” he said.
Marlette also argued five coun-
ties in Eastern Oregon shouldn’t
be the roadway for a power line
she believes won’t benefit any of
those counties and indeed will
“To run over five Eastern Ore-
gon counties so (Idaho Power) can
make a profit is sinful,” she said.
Staying in until the final
While opponents to the proj-
ect consider the system rigged
against them, they are not back-
“The people are coming to us
now, and it’s just growing by leaps
and bounds,” Fuji Kreider said,
noting the coalition added 200
individuals to its rolls in the last
month. And the city of La Grande
in April passed a proclamation
opposing the power line.
Deschner said he appreciated
the efforts of Baker County Com-
missioner Mark Bennett, who has
been the three-member board of
commissioner’s liaison on B2H.
He testified at the June 19 pub-
lic hearing, saying, “Baker Coun-
ty’s position from the get-go and
continues to this day is that we do
not support a line going through
Although neither Marlette nor
Deschner is confident their com-
ments will persuade the Facility
Siting Council to reject B2H, they
said the support from Stop B2H
Coalition and other opponents is
“There’s strength in numbers,”
Browne said he believes the
opponents have a shot, and band-
ing together makes them tougher
to push around.
Kreider at one point turned
reflective when looking over
Cowboy Ridge and envisioning
what the line could do there.
“Some days,” she said, “I feel
more optimistic about our group’s
effect than others.”
Baker City Herald editor
Jayson Jacoby contributed to this