Approximately two years ago, we provided public comment on Idaho Power’s proposed, and still controversial, power line. As mid-valley homeowners, Blaine County taxpayers and Idaho Power customers for more than 20 years, my wife and I are still opposed to the proposed power line. Though our efforts along with those of other residents were successful at the local level, Idaho Power was able to reverse those decisions in Boise.

    Our objections included: 1) The line was unnecessary overkill to prevent the 12-hour outage that occurred seven years earlier. 2) The outage was due to problems with the line south of Hailey, not in the mid-valley. 3) Bury the lines to prevent storm-related outages if the change is truly necessary. 4) As East Fork Road residents, our rights were not being protected like those of our fellow residents who lived north of Elkhorn Road and would benefit from the burying of the unsightly power lines. 5) Above-ground power lines south of Elkhorn Road would tarnish the priceless beauty that we enjoy when we (or our tourist visitors) travel on Highway 75—preservation and economic interests are inexorably intertwined and are not mutually exclusive (we can do both). 6) The line should not divert onto Audubon Place—huge power lines would tower just feet from our front yards. 7) It was ironic that we and our Audubon neighbors purchased land along the east side of Highway 75 north from the Greenhorn Fire Station to East Fork Road (and donated the property to the Wood River Land Trust) to keep it open and preserve the beauty for all of us in perpetuity.

    When Idaho Power advocated for the power line two years ago, the proposal to bury lines in Ketchum was critical in getting the project over the goal line. Today we learn that funding for those expenses might actually be foisted onto the consumer or onto the taxpayer. Promises and assurances made to get this project through might have been fool’s gold. In any event, these changes are permanent. They will have an impact on all of us for years to come.

    Since we now have another opportunity for public comment over the proposed power line, we’re taking this opportunity to again object to diverting the line onto Audubon Place—above our quiet neighborhood lane where our children and dogs play. Having power lines running over our heads just feet from our front lawns is harmful to our environment and especially to our health. These are transmission lines—not distribution lines like those that run across other neighborhoods. Transmission lines may carry 138 kilowatts. These are powerful and a known health hazard. Some studies have shown that the closer one is to the line, the greater the danger. The transmission lines will also run along and above the bike path. If the massive lines must exist, they should be buried or run in a straight shot alongside Highway 75 (as they do from Hailey to just south of the Greenhorn Fire Station) to East Fork Road and then cross the highway to run along the west side of Highway 75 north.

    We acted as stewards in 1996 when we purchased, preserved and donated property for the common good between Audubon Place and Highway 75. By joining with our neighbors and taking action, we were able to stop a powerful group who had the support of a local politician, and who planned to rezone the property for commercial use and profit by building a gas station and high-density apartment units that would have transformed our neighborhood. As residents, we have unique power when we raise our voices as one. This is still our valley, too. We only ask to be treated with fairness. If the line is buried elsewhere, we ask for the same consideration and the same equal protection as others in our community. And if the line must be exposed, we ask our leaders to protect our small street from the massive power lines and the permanent assault our neighborhood would be forced to bear.

    We appreciate this community and thank you for affording us this opportunity to provide public comment on a matter that is close to our hearts and that will have a serious impact on many of us for decades to come.

Pam and Ray Slomski are residents of Blaine County in the East Fork area.

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