Why no EIS?
CENSE is now more than a year old. For most of that time, CENSE has been opposing PSE’s “Energize Eastside” mega-project.
But there is a smaller project that PSE will begin building this year through the Lake Hills and Phantom Lake neighborhoods. PSE proposes to remove 295 trees from several beautiful Bellevue streets, including a major thoroughfare, 148th Avenue SE. The thing that baffles us is that the City of Bellevue granted PSE a waiver from the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that is normally required for a project of this size.
To appreciate the awkwardness of the reasoning behind this decision, read this excerpt from Bellevue’s Staff Report:
The proposal to construct a new PSE transmission line to connect the Lake Hills and Phantom Lake substations could cause potentially significant adverse environmental impacts to wetlands, plants and animals, and scenic resources. Application of City codes and requirements alone … cannot adequately mitigate the expected environmental impacts from the removal of 295 city-owned trees associated with this proposal – many of which are within critical areas or critical area buffers. Therefore, the issuance of a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance is the appropriate threshold determination under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requirements.
Excuse me? The impacts can’t be mitigated, so the response is to say the impacts are non-significant?
This might make sense to lawyers and government bureaucrats, but it strains any sense of reason for residents and future generations who will have to live with the result.
If you have any doubt that the mitigation proposed by the city and PSE will be non-significant, please ponder these before-and-after photo simulations of the project.
The loss of these trees exposes infrastructure that the trees help to hide. It can’t be denied that this will have a major impact on the appearance of this neighborhood. Perhaps an EIS would have helped residents understand the trade-offs. Maybe we could have found better alternatives.
We must demand a better outcome and a properly conducted EIS to get everyone on the same page.