Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tracking the Elusive T-Line

Yeah, I know, it's not what you thought "restoration consultants" did, but it's what this one is doing. Driving 1500 plus miles in the last four days, trying to unravel maps, aerial images, Garmin GPS locations and drive all at the same time (not really..Joyce is navigating and doing a fine job of it, thank you very much) in search of miles and miles and miles of Transmission Lines that run all over the Pacific Northwest (or at least, at the moment, northern Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana). It's a good thing the T-lines themselves standout from the landscape but DRIVING to the substations is occasionally a challenge (I have only given up once so far Dworshak, where my definitely not 4WD vehicle wasn't up to the grade). The payoff, when you find what you are looking for, is worth it though. T-Lines are quite remarkable, when you actually stop to think about them (and yes, I realize most people don't).

The system built by Bonneville Power Administration over the past seventy or so years is really a pretty remarkable achievement. Of course, I am rarely disappointed by the audacity of engineers to design such a grid and make it all work. Or of the men (and one presumes, women) who actually go out and plant these steel and wood towers in neat lines over mountains, streams and valleys, from Point A to Point B.

As to the question of "what does this mean" and why is somebody like me looking at transmission lines, of all things, I am still puzzling that out. I can tell you that the Pacific Northwest wouldn't be what it is, would not have developed as it has, without BPA and its miles of transmission lines (or, to be fair, without the Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation dams that generate the power to begin with). Clearly, from the perspective of the National Register, there is little doubt that BPA's construction constitutes a "significant theme" within the history of the PNW, if not the nation. How these lines relate that significance, and more importantly from BPA's standpoint, how their "integrity" is evaluated in a manner that allows their continued utility, remains an open question.

On to Washington, and tomorrow, Grand Coulee!

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