Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Power line won’t run through Craters

BLM proposal for Gateway West released


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer


The proposed route for the power line, above, runs from a power station near Casper, Wyo., to one just southeast of Boise via two different lines. The north route would connect to an existing power line (shown by the dashed line) that runs through the southernmost arm of Blaine County. Courtesy graphic.

A 1,100-mile power line that had been proposed through Craters of the Moon National Monument will likely be built along another route, federal officials said late last month.

The BLM released a draft environmental impact statement for the Gateway West Transmission Line Project, a project commissioned by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power.

One proposed route for the project would have brought one segment of the line through Craters of the Moon National Monument east of Carey.

According to the report, neither the preferred route nor the alternatives run through the monument or any part of Blaine County—to the relief of county commissioners.

"There is no indication that they will use that route or even study it," said County Director of Operations Char Nelson.

Commissioners said Tuesday that they plan to comment on the report to ensure that the line stays out of Blaine County.

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Commissioner Larry Schoen said the county's view needed to be submitted to the BLM to "guide" it in making a final decision.

Nelson said other counties, mainly heavily impacted Cassia and Twin Falls counties, may push the agency to consider the Craters of the Moon alternative route again, and urged the commissioners to submit comments to the BLM.

Commissioner Tom Bowman agreed, saying, "I really do think we need to have a voice in this."

The commissioners agreed to draft a letter to the agency in upcoming weeks.

The project is composed of 1,103 miles of new power lines, three new substations and expansions at nine other substations throughout Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.

It includes strengthening an existing transmission line running through a southern arm of Blaine County and construction of a new line from near Casper, Wyo., to a substation in Owyhee County in southwestern Idaho, along a route running near Burley and Twin Falls.

Companies say the expansion is necessary to serve Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming markets effectively.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com

Power struggle

The Gateway West Transmission Line project is entirely separate from the Mountain States Transmission Intertie, a controversial power transmission line proposed by NorthWestern Energy that will run 400 miles through Montana and eastern Idaho. A proposed alternative to that project would have taken 30 to 35 miles of the line through Carey and some private ranchlands before heading southwest along U.S. Highway 26 to Shoshone. The current preferred route avoids Carey and runs along an existing power line in Blaine County's southernmost extension.




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