FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New transmission line threatens Methow Valley habitat
Supreme Court allows Okanogan PUD to condemn state lands for new powerline
A State Supreme Court ruling yesterday paves the way for Okanogan PUD to take possession of state land in order to build a new powerline through important wildlife habitat in the Methow Valley.
After a lengthy court battle between the Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD) and the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the State Supreme Court ruled yesterday that state law ‘expressly authorizes’ public utility districts to install electrical transmissions lines on state trust lands.
This decision paves the way for Okanogan PUD to take possession of state land in order to build a new powerline through important wildlife habitat in the Methow Valley, rather than use less expensive routes adjacent to highways where transmission lines already exist and are easier to maintain.
Because of the serious implications for wildlife habitat, Conservation Northwest intervened in the case, supporting Commissioner Goldmark’s defense of state trust lands.
Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest, expressed his disappointment in the court’s decision, “this is a big blow to the Methow’s quality of life. Building the new powerline will fragment the largest remaining tract of shrub-steppe habitat in the valley and harm important mule deer winter habitat already hit hard by last summer’s fire.”
A report from Washington Department of Natural Resources scientists suggests that the PUD dramatically underestimated impacts to public lands. Installing the new lines will likely require more miles of new road for heavy equipment and significant mountain top blasting. Increased road construction and excavation in this sensitive environment could result in more sediment choking aquatic habitat important for the Methow River’s Endangered Species Act listed salmon, steelhead and bull trout. New roads may also increase the risk of dangerous erosion, wildfire, and the spread of noxious weeds.
Conservation Northwest is deeply disappointed with this court decision and the implications it has for the Methow Valley, its wildlife and the people who live, work and recreate there.