A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

For better reliability: Board OKs PP&L project

Written July 30th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Pacific Power’s Hazelwood substation as seen from Hazelwood Park on July 10.

The outcome wasn’t in doubt,  so it was no surprise this afternoon when the Hearings Board of the Albany Planning Commission unanimously approved the expansion of Pacific Power’s Hazelwood substation.

The utility, still officially Pacific Power & Light on the tax rolls, owns five tax lots between Queen Avenue and 17th Avenue S.W. The substation occupies about two-thirds of the acreage, and now the company will build a new so-called “ring bus” on the rest, which means demolishing a long-vacant house on the property.

Nicole Schukow, a neighbor on 17th, supported the application and welcomed getting rid of the dilapidated house. But she asked that Pacific make sure to clean up after itself when the construction is complete. Apparently there was debris and gravel lying around after another project.

Another neighbor, Jeffery Reams, whose house is directly east of the expansion area, had questions about a retaining wall and fence adjacent to his property, and he got them answered.

Garrett Stephenson, a Portland-based lawyer for Pacific, summed up the reason for the expansion. The new ring bus, an arrangement of electrical equipment, is intended to ensure reliable service and correct current deficiencies in that department. “It’s not an optional thing.”

Further, the equipment requires a certain amount of space around it. The utility could build a new substation somewhere else, but that likely would mean condemning houses. So it makes sense to expand this station instead.

The hearings board met in a remote session, via the Internet, from different locations. Board Chair Dala Rouse ran the hearing from a room at City Hall, where she was joined by the planning staff.

As part of this project, Pacific Power will have to build a sidewalk along its frontage on 17th. Schukow, the neighbor a few houses down, wanted to know if sidewalk and curbs would be extended down the street to provide drainage. But no, the rest of largely unimproved street will be left the way it is.

One question left unanswered in the 45-minute hearing: When will the construction start, and when will it be complete? (hh)

7 responses to “For better reliability: Board OKs PP&L project”

  1. thomas cordier says:

    PP&L does a great service to us. The City takes all money from us that the law allows. I’m pleased the staff of planners has not screwed this up.

    • Mac says:

      I disagree. PP&L puts profits first and doesn’t fix most things until they fail. If you’re lucky you get your power from a cooperative.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        PacifiCorp is a regulated public utility governed by a franchise agreement granted by the City (see AMC, Capt. 3.04). They are a legally mandated monopoly for a specific service area in the City.

        Their rates are approved by the City Council. If you, as a consumer of their electricity, have a problem with how much profit PacifiCorp is making off of consumers, or have a beef with their performance, then you should make your case in front of the City Council. The franchise agreement spells out their responsibilities in great detail.

        And if you want the city to replace PacifiCorp’s service area with a cooperative (I assume you mean a non-profit like CPI), again, make your case in front of the City Council.

        And let’s not forget that the franchise agreement includes a 5% “privilege tax” that PacifiCorp (and CPI for their area) pays the City on the gross receipts received from City ratepayers. In other words, it’s a tax that gets passed on to the consumer. It amounted to >$3 million this tax year. Perhaps you should aim your fire towards this target.

        Good luck with your battle. The average disgruntled ratepayer doesn’t have much power fighting both local government and a favored power company (no pun intended).

  2. James Engel says:

    I like having room lights, T.V. going, radio/CD’s when I want, not to mention the washer & dryer and other electrical devices (including this computer I’m writing on). So I’m telling myself I’ll put up with the rates. Either that or a big squirrel cage for me to run in to generate power..:>)


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