Northwest Trail Issues

This section will address current issues of importance to the Northwest Chapter. Of immediate concern is the proposed transmission line from Boardman to Hemingway. This line will severely impact the Oregon Trail

B2H Transmission Line Comments

Submitting comments for the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line.

It is too late to submit comments. The deadline was March 19.

Please scroll down in the Issues section for details.

    Proposed Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line – Impacts on the Oregon Trail

    The proposed Boardman to Hemingway transmission line will cross the Oregon Trail eleven times, with 200 foot tall towers and a 250 foot swath. The BLM has issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for review. The deadline to respond was March 19, 2015.

    Jim Tompkins, our chapter president, urged all of us in the Northwest Chapter to do our part in communicating with the BLM about the Boardman to Hemingway Draft EIS. Comments were due  March 19, 2015.

    Here is Jim’s description of the situation, from the last chapter newsletter, based on a report from Gail Carbiener:

    Oregon creates far more electricity than its meager population requires. Most exported electricity in Oregon is hydroelectricity generated as water passes over mighty dams. Most is sent to California. The second most exported electricity is wind generated, with many wind farms located along the Oregon Trail. Other energy related processes include the burning of biomass (wood waste) to create electricity, thermal electricity from geysers in Southern Oregon along the Applegate Trail, pipelines carrying natural gas to Oregon ports (some of which might cross various historic trails), and the increasingly long lines of railroad cars carrying Wyoming coal or North Dakota shale oil to Oregon ports. The last two energy sources are being exported to China to create electricity there.

    Seven and a half years ago, Idaho Power suggested a 500 kilovolt transmission line to carry electricity from the coal fired Boardman, Oregon, generating plant to a hub in Hemingway, Idaho, where it would passed on around Idaho and beyond, including states such as Wyoming. I mention Wyoming because Oregon does not have large coal deposits within its boundaries and Boardman must import its coal from Wyoming. [I remember waiting over half an hour to get into Fort Laramie once so a coal train could pass.] There is talk of converting Boardman to a natural gas burning plant. There is also talk of shutting Boardman down, which would not happen if it was exporting electricity.

    The Boardman to Hemingway (or B2H) line proposal has been quietly building steam in the background since 2007. NWOCTA members have been involved since it went public. One meeting was held in Clackamas during our 2013 convention. Now, the project has moved to the forefront. Why is NWOCTA concerned? Because the route of its transmission line, with up to 200 foot tall towers and 250 foot swath, braids its way along the Oregon Trail, crossing it eleven times from Boardman to the Blues to Flagstaff Hill to Vale to the Idaho border to Hemingway, near Boise.

    Around Christmas, BLM issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for review ( Interested parties have 90 days, until March 19, 2015, to respond. And respond we must. You will be hearing more soon. An email blast will be sent out to the NWOCTA mailing list asking for letters to BLM. The letters will be counted both for the total number of responses, as well as by topic, so it is best that we send many letters and not be exact duplicates. Express your best reasons.

    We will also discuss and hopefully pass a resolution at our annual meeting March 14th in Puyallup, Washington. Other organizations should also show their support of the historic emigrant trail system that would be impacted by this project.

    As I said, I try to monitor many sources. As such I overhear many statements. A couple of sentiments that I found particularly grating are paraphrased here: “Along the Oregon Trail we are having a hard time getting sight-lines included as part of the heritage experience, while in Europe heritage sites must include both sight-lines as well as sound intrusions.” And, “There are some other places where the Oregon Trail can still be seen, who will miss this one?”


    Jim recently wrote a communication that was emailed to all NW OCTA chapter members about this issue, urging folks to respond by the deadline of March 19.

    Here is what he wrote:

    We are up against a mid-March deadline to get letters to BLM regarding their draft environmental impact statement. The more the better and you do NOT have to be an Oregon resident or NWOCTA member to respond. I sent mine today and am enclosing a copy for you to see. All letters should be individualized as much as possible. Anyone responding to the DEIS goes on a list of people/organizations eligible to respond in the future (speak now or forever hold your peace). Also enclosed are instructions on where to send your response.

    NWOCTA will consider a organization resolution at their annual meeting in Puyallup in March and hope that national will do likewise at their mid-year meeting.

    Jim Tompkins



    Here is what Jim sent to BLM as his response:

    As president of the Northwest Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association, past president of the Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers, board member of the Clackamas County Historical Society, and instructor for Clackamas Community College with deep interest in the Oregon Trail, I find it necessary to respond to the draft environmental impact statement issued by BLM.

    The Boardman to Hemingway transmission line crosses the Oregon Trail eleven times. The statement has been made that there are plenty of places to see the Oregon Trail elsewhere. The Oregon Trail does not regenerate. Any part lost is gone forever. I hope that by saving the trail in Oregon, if the day comes that those other places to see the trail are lost, I can say we saved the trail in our state.

    BLM has been a friend of the Oregon Trail since its designation in 1976. BLM has marked the trail and worked with organizations such as mine to preserve the trail. It built the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill, near Baker City, Oregon, and placed their own man, David Hunsaker, in charge. B2H is now proposing to put up towers, up to 200 feet tall, in plain view of the picture windows at Flagstaff Hill Interpretive Center that will completely alter the view and the viewers perception of the Oregon Trail. BLM has marked and provided access to a pristine segment of the Oregon Trail just below the Flagstaff Hill center. People walking the Oregon Trail, at the invitation of BLM, will be completely overshadowed by these towers and power lines and will not have the same experience they might have without the towers and lines. Are you allowing your own showplace to be degraded?
    Idaho has fewer people than Oregon, yet is making itself dependent on Oregon power. Is this power really going to Idaho users or somewhere else like California or points east of Idaho? We already have power lines from Bonneville Power Authority dams at McNary and Bonneville to California. Why do we need new ones that ruin parts of the Oregon Trail or people’s experience of the trail?

    Boardman electricity producing plant is coal fired. Oregon has no coal. It is imported from Wyoming. The Boardman plant is scheduled to be closed at the same time that these new lines are built. Is this just an excuse for PGE to phony up the value of Boardman to keep it open? Or does Idaho Power have plans to replace Boardman power with BPA power out of McNary?
    I can not think of good enough reasons to help destroy what is left of the Oregon Trail so Idaho Power can connect to Boardman.

    Jim Tompkins


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