Residents of a sparsely populated area of Washoe County nearly 50 miles north of Bordertown, and just inside of the Nevada border, spoke out Tuesday against a planned 345 kV transmission line that would be installed about a mile from their homes.
Their arguments were part of an appeal of a planning commission decision to approve the five-mile-long Praana Transmission Line being heard by Washoe’s Board of County Commissioners.
The board in a 4-1 vote denied the appeal and upheld the planning commission’s approval for the project. Commissioner Jeanne Herman voted against the motion.
The transmission line was approved by the planning commission March 7 and would run along Rainbow Road to connect the Praana Substation near Calveda Way to the Fort Sage Substation.
Praana’s line would run not far from the 164-mile long Alturas Transmission Line, also a 345 kV line that was installed in 1998 and is mostly in California.
Area resident Alla Peacock filed an appeal on the approval claiming that the project would kick up excessive dust, pose health and wildfire threats, and ruin her views and rural way of life.
“People in our valley don’t want to be disturbed. They just want peace and quiet,” Peacock said. “We live in a beautiful valley that has gorgeous views out there, and little by little it’s just getting turned into an industrial field because more and more projects keep getting approved.”
A number of other residents in the area lodged similar complaints.
Praana owner and civil engineer Shaun Vemuri said he listened to many of the concerns residents shared and has tried to respond to and address many of them.
“We have not left any of their concerns unanswered,” he said.
One such concern was the condition of the road, Rainbow Way, which residents said would be destroyed by the heavy equipment required to construct the transmission lines. They said other roads in the area had been badly damaged and left in poor condition after a nearby solar project was built two years ago.
Vemuri said his company would repair the 4.3 miles of dirt road and improve it to an all-season surface for the residents.
He also pointed to numerous plans submitted with his project application to the planning commission, including a fire management plan, water supply via fire hydrant near the site, biological studies for the project and compliance with monitoring practices.
Commissioner Clara Andriola said she appreciated the plans and effort Vemuri had put into responding to the residents, but that she was looking for some commitment from him to make residents whole should real damages occur during construction, such as flat tires or vehicle damage.
“It pains me to hear the experience they had when the solar project was being built back in 2021 and 2020. We were not involved in it,” Vemuri said. “As an engineer, my responsibility doesn’t stop after the design is done; it continues through construction. We have to hold the contractor accountable.”
Vemuri said unlike other companies, his projects don’t direct complaints to an off-site public relations person.
“I can commit to boots on the ground issues resolved in their community,” he added. “During construction, the community members should be given an open channel of communication to anybody they see in a safety vest.”
Commissioners Herman and Mike Clark both suggested offering concessions to residents near where the line would be built, such as building a fire station for their community. Vemuri said that request hadn’t been made by the residents.
“I don’t think it’s their job to ask you,” Herman said. “Having good relationships with the people that you are going to be building a project in the middle of their heaven, somewhere somebody’s gotta give something. And the things that they would need are a fire station.”