South end substation news brief

Citizens chosen by the mayor to protect Pioneer Park do not think the benefits from adding a second feeder line into the Island’s South end substation outweigh the costs of removing about 50 trees from the park.

To improve reliability for South end customers, the city and Puget Sound Energy are considering the removal of 53 trees in the southern border of the northwest section of Pioneer Park to add a second transmission line.

The new transmission loop from Island Crest Way to the substation would run along a portion of the park on S.E. 68th Street. The new line would allow power to be transferred from the North end after a severe outage if the feeder lines along S.E. 68th across Lake Washington were down.

In late April, however, the seven-member Open Space Conservancy Trust authored and unanimously approved a resolution that suggested the City Council not proceed with the proposed tree removal.

“In a nutshell, we felt the potential hypothetical advantages of adding new power lines were outweighed by the costs,” said Fletch Waller, vice chair of the Trust.

PSE and the city have been working together to develop ways to improve power reliability in the South end since the December 2006 windstorm left several Islanders without power for more than a week. In response, PSE has proposed adding the second feeder line and is considering modifications to South end distribution lines. However, the Trust did not like the idea of losing 53 trees for an event that rarely occurs.

“Although the project is intended to provide some level of electrical system reliability improvement to the South end of the city, the Trust Board believes that the project’s adverse impacts on Pioneer Park substantially outweigh its anticipated benefits,” states the resolution.

The resolution also says that tree removal would adversely affect the experience in the park.

“The trees that would be removed total several dozen, many of which are very large and assist in shielding the park — including a high-use trail — from the noise, congestion and visual impacts of 68th Street traffic and the shopping center and electrical substation across the street,” the document states.

Trust member Rita Moore said the board asked tough questions of PSE and their answers contributed to their decision.

“This project would remove all the trees between the road and the first trail inside the park, or the perimeter trail,” said Moore. “Imagine the corner with no trees. Also, these are the healthiest trees in the area. But that would only help restore power a day sooner.”

Other reasons for siding against the project focused on the improvements that PSE representatives said would result from the project. According to the draft minutes, Carol Jaegger, a transmission planning engineer, explained more distribution outages occurred than transmission outages. However, transmission outages affect a far greater number of people, she said.

The utility is expected to come back to the Council for more direction later this summer.

While the Council will not make a decision regarding the PSE project for several months, there is other work continuing within the Island’s largest park, much of which is aimed to improve the tree canopy.

The Trust plans to continue removing several acres of invasive species and replanting diseased or damaged trees still looming from the December 2006 windstorm.

“It takes a lot of staff. It’s a lot of handwork to go in and make sure blackberry, holly and other invasives are kept clear of [newly planted] trees,” said Waller. “We want to replace the dying canopy.”

The Trust plans to spend around $100,000 this year to continue its forest management efforts in the 113-acre park. Last year, the Trust spent more than $95,000 to help revive the park.

Taking care of the park is labor intensive.

There were 18 events that attracted 339 volunteers who removed invasive plants from 30,000 square feet of the park last year. They planted 340 trees. A total of 900 new native and local trees have been planted in damaged areas.

“What we found out is that many trees are suffering from root rot disease. The firs and alders are aging and that alarmed us,” said Waller. “These are very, very sick trees.”

The Trust also looks forward to adding a trail into the Engstrom Open Space, which added 17 extra acres to the park.

“Trail development and integration is a Trust priority,” Waller said.

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