300trees is the culmination of a battle over a decade in the making. Here are the highlights.
- In 2006, Bellevue was walloped by the “Hanukkah Eve Windstorm,” resulting in long power outages for some Bellevue residents.
- As part of its response, PSE proposed a new redundant transmission line in East Bellevue. By connecting the Lake Hills and Phantom Lake substations, each station would get a second source of electricity in case the existing transmission line fails. However, such outages are very rare. In the past 13 years, the new transmission line would have prevented only two brief outages (one was 15 minutes, the other, a couple of hours).
- It took almost seven years to settle on a route for the transmission line. The shortest route along 164th Avenue already has a lot of local distribution lines. PSE proposed to move the distribution lines underground and run the high-voltage transmission line overhead. Residents balked at the prospect of paying several thousand dollars per home to connect to the new underground system.
- The public hearing for a line located on 148th Ave. and NE 8th St. was held on the Thursday before Thanksgiving in 2014. The meeting was not well-publicized by PSE or the City of Bellevue. Only nine residents attended, and only a few of them spoke at the hearing.
- With token opposition, the Hearing Examiner approved the project.
- The rest of the city and the citizen group CENSE learned of the project, now legally locked in stone, in March 2015 (Bellevue Reporter article).
- In April 2015, the Bellevue City Council approved the project without hearing any input from residents. Councilmember Jennifer Robertson dissented. She said, “This project is a travesty.”
- The project was unanimously rejected by the East Bellevue Community Council in June 2015. The community council has land use authority in the area impacted by the transmission line.
- PSE sued the council in King County Superior Court. In December 2015, the council prevailed.
- PSE appealed to the State Court of Appeals, where the Superior Court’s ruling was overturned in February 2017.
- The Washington State Supreme Court declined to hear the council’s appeal.
- In June 2017, indigenous people led a protest at PSE headquarters and Bellevue City Hall.
- CENSE asked for donations to hire an expert in “Distribution Automation,” a smart grid technology that could deliver better reliability than the transmission line without destroying trees.
- The expert for CENSE asked PSE for circuit data to complete his study. PSE refused to provide it. CENSE complained to PSE’s state regulator, the Utilities and Transportation Commission. The Commission said there was no state law empowering them to compel PSE to provide data against its wishes.
- CENSE withdrew its complaint, dismissed its expert, and asked residents what to do with their donations. About half of the money was donated to the Lake Hills Neighborhood Association to continue their efforts to get a better solution.
- 300trees was formed in 2018 to provide specific attention to the issue. In late 2018, 300trees ran ads in the Bellevue Reporter and held a community forum with testimony from the CENSE expert. PSE continued to resist all efforts to engage in dialog with community leaders.
- In February 2020, PSE began cutting trees on NE 8th St. For photos, commentary, and questions, see the 300trees Facebook page.
- 300trees is now making a final effort to pursue undergrounding of the transmission line along 148th Avenue, saving about half the trees and preserving the park-like atmosphere of this iconic boulevard. We have reason to hope that PSE’s new CEO might be open to a different approach.