Friday, March 4, 2011
The BPA Transmission System
Back to working on Bonneville Power Administration projects for the past few weeks, this time on a proposed transmission line that crosses the Columbia River between an established substation and a proposed new one that is being built to accommodate all of the new wind generation that is sprouting up along the Gorge. This project is the first time I have gone through the “Registration Standards” that were developed as part of the BPA Multiple Property Documentation, applying them in a real world situation.
The MPD, which in one form or another has been under development for nearly five years, is intended as a significant management tool that will alleviate SOME of the paperwork that BPA and the eight SHPO offices it interacts with have to process. Essentially, we defined a historic development context for BPA’s transmission system, all 15,000+ circuit miles and nearly 300 substations that allow them to be (more) easily reviewed for significance and establishes guidelines for evaluation of effect. Hence the “Registration Standards” that I have been applying to the Big Eddy Substation and four transmission lines that will be affected by proposed project. So far, so good, but then the two SHPOs haven’t had a chance to respond yet, and that will be the proverbial acid test.
Many people are somewhat surprised that a transmission line, or a switchyard, or a substation related to the generation and transmission of electricity could be considered historic. Those are usually people who somehow think “historic” and “beautiful” are synonyms. They aren’t, of course. And when you think about a “system” that changed our way of life, that is associated with significant themes (like rural electrification, the development the defense or airplane industry in the Pacific Northwest, or the post-WWII development of our region) there are few elements of this region’s history with more impact than the decision to build dams on the Columbia River, create massive amounts of hydroelectricity, and distribute it at low cost throughout the region. One could argue (and this one has) that there are few other Federal investments in the Pacific Northwest that have had more effect than the creation of BPA and the Federal Columbia River Power System. The only things that even come close are the Interstate (which just replaced an earlier Federal system of highways) and the land grants associated with the arrival of the railroad.
Now I will turn my attention to the J. D. Ross Substation, in Vancouver, Washington.... a fascinating place that among other things demonstrates a utility can have a sense of style.