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Over-river power line can move forward

Sat., March 28, 2009

Spokane County commissioners have decided a proposed electric line over the Spokane River north of Liberty Lake is not an “essential public facility” requiring extensive study of alternatives.

The decision last week means Avista Corp. doesn’t have to identify and study 10 options as commissioners had to when they selected a site for a proposed new jail.

Commissioners determined that the electric line would be a “local-serving utility,” exempt from requirements for projects with effects that are countywide or broader. The requirements are spelled out in an ordinance state law compelled the county to adopt for determining the location of public projects that many people don’t want in their neighborhoods.

Projects are exempt if they serve primarily the neighborhoods in which they are to be located.

According to Avista environmental coordinator Robin Bekkedahl, the proposed electric line is needed to maintain reliable service by connecting the Liberty Lake area with a substation on the north side of the river in Otis Orchards. The transmission line would run straight from Appleway Road to the substation, along separate sections of Simpson Road.

The proposed crossing is midway between bridges at Harvard Road and the Idaho state line. Existing crossings in the vicinity can’t be used because they can’t provide necessary space between wires or required clearances from the river, roads or the Centennial Trail, Bekkedahl said in a letter to county officials.

Bekkedahl said the site doesn’t lend itself to boring under the river because of distance, elevation differences and rocks. Also, Bekkedahl said an overhead line would be easier to repair and maintain, and this one would use technology designed to protect birds of prey.

Poles would be no taller than 125 feet.

John Pederson, the county’s interim planning director, said the project will require a “substantial development” permit from Hearing Examiner Michael Dempsey.

Contact reporter John Craig at (509) 927-2165 or by e-mail at

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