By Steve Elder | CNA Media Team
Pacific Power began reconstruction of its dormant Kennedy Substation last September. But the utility neglected to advise neighbors in advance of its expansion plans to fill the growing energy needs of northeast Portland.
.So the plans and the lack of notice have continued to be the talk of the neighborhood for months.
According to Tom Gauntt, Pacific Power spokesman, the utility is installing one transformer and three distribution voltage circuit breakers. Efforts include associated steel structures and wires on 41st Avenue to tap into the existing northeast Portland transmission system and provide three new sources to serve the neighborhood.
“We are not removing any facilities, but are replacing some existing distribution and transmission wood poles with a mixture of wood and steel poles to make the new connection,” he said.
Neighbors reported they were surprised and dismayed when the substation reconstruction began, including a 52-foot structure. “We are developing a better protocol for providing notice to the neighborhood before work commences again,” the utility spokesman said.
A letter responding to their questions and concerns was sent by Pacific Power, following a meeting of those neighbors.
It addresses noise, landscaping, street repairs and more. Under consideration is building a wall between the substation and adjacent houses to buffer light and sound.
The letter goes into such details as the fate of the existing cherry tree on Emerson and removal of the dead tree on 42nd Avenue.
Pacific Power submitted a draft of a “good neighbor agreement” at a Feb. 27 meeting with neighbors. It calls for monitoring noise and electromagnetic fields, a commitment to consider constructing a shell around the site, solar storage at St. Charles Church and a $25,000 annual grant for energy related projects in the area.
The utility also offered to pave the section of Emerson Street between 42nd and 41st avenues, but neighbors declined, saying their property taxes would be impacted.
Those commitments are not enough for neighbor Rebecca Marshall.
“My concern all along has been the enormity of this ‘upgrade,’” she pointed out. “This substation is a major change to the way our neighborhood looks, and we are also concerned about our health and loss of property value.
“We are also concerned about the noise this will make when it is fully energized.”
Other potentially impacted residents expressed concern about noise and lights left on all night. So the utility pledged to contain noise to levels governed by city code and to install motion sensors for security lighting.
Steve Elder, East2@ ConcordiaPDX.org, is an inactive lawyer, a developer, activist and old grouch.