Articles from The Owyhee Avalanche on the B2H Project

The following articles are given in chronological order


Power line to cross through Owyhee County, Adrian

Marsing public meeting addresses Idaho Power scoping plan

(published 10/15/2008)


Landowners in Owyhee and Malheur counties will be impacted by an electricity transmission line proposed by the Idaho Power Co., according to a map released with a recent public comment notice from the Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Energy.

The Boardman to Hemingway project will create two new substations in Idaho and run a 500-kilovolt power line from an area northwest of Hemingway Butte in Owyhee County to Boardman, Ore.

An information and scoping meeting will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Phipps-Watson Marsing American Legion Community Center, 126 N. Bruneau Hwy., at its intersection with 2nd Street. Idaho Power announced the meeting in an advertisement in today’s edition of The Owyhee Avalanche.

“This project, scheduled for completion in 2013, is required to meet customer load growth needs, as well as increase transmission capacity and reliability,” the Idaho Power ad states. The company said in the ad that construction of the line will help customers today and in the future.

Eighty-six percent of the land targeted for the overhead lines is privately owned, including the entire corridor for Owyhee and Malheur counties. That portion of a two-mile-wide corridor, called a study area, is mapped out to run from the proposed Hemingway Butte-area substation northwest to Adrian. The corridor cuts a northwesterly swath on private land south of the city limits of Marsing and Homedale then crosses the Oregon-Idaho line due south of Idaho highway 19 and turns north toward Adrian. A map of the local area, labeled “Weatherby to Hemingway”, and available on the project Web site, www.boardmantohemingway.com, shows the corridor passes right through the Adrian city limits.

Tuesday’s meeting in Marsing is the first of a series of public gatherings to address the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process required by federal law before Idaho Power proceeds with the construction of the 298-mile-long 500-kilovolt line between Boardman, Ore., and the proposed Hemingway Substation outside Murphy about 24 miles southwest of Homedale.

Idaho Power also is required to undergo an Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) process in Oregon.
It’s not known if public meetings will be held on the general impact of the project on private property owners. A phone call and e-mail to Idaho Power project manager Eric Haskett from The Owyhee Avalanche weren’t answered last week. One property owner in the affected area south of Homedale said he never received mail notification of Tuesday’s public meeting.

Public comment will be taken until Nov. 14. Written comments on the NEPA vetting can be mailed to Boardman to Hemingway Project, Attn.: Lucas Lucero, Bureau of Land Management, 4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, Nev., 89130; faxed to (702) 515-5010; or e-mailed to B2HComments@blm.gov. The EFSC comments can be mailed to Boardman to Hemingway Project, Attn.: Adam Bless, Oregon Department of Energy, 625 Marion St. NE, Salem, OR 97301; faxed to (503) 373-7806; or e-mailed to adam.bless@state.or.us.

According to a map supplied by Idaho Power and apparently mailed to “interested citizens” last week, the southern portion of the transmission line would cross private land from the Hemingway station northwest to Adrian where the line then turns east toward the proposed Sand Hollow Substation in Payette County.
Other Idaho/Oregon area meetings are scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. next Wednesday at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, Ore., and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23, at the Baker County Fairgrounds in Baker City, Ore.

Information in the form of Idaho Power’s Notice of Intent filings with the BLM and Oregon’s energy department can be found at www.boardmantohemingway.com. Hard copies of the BLM filing also are available for public review at BLM offices in Marsing, Boise, Vale, Ore., and Baker City, Ore.
The EFSC notice of intent is available at public libraries in Boise, Nampa, Ontario and Baker City.
— JPB

 

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B-H transmission line will cross local properties

(published 10/29/08)


Following in the wake of the surveying for the proposed Sunstone natural gas pipeline, Adrian rancher Dale Balderston can probably expect yet another utility right-of-way across his 120 acres just south of Adrian.

Idaho Power Co., as part of its planning for the $600 million Boardman-to-Hemingway transmission line, has plotted a two-mile-wide proposed course for the 500-kilovolt (kV) lines, a majority of which will be strung on 150-foot-tall lattice steel towers, each with a 40-foot-by-40-foot footprint. The proposed route runs straight across Balderston’s land, and touches or transects almost every property in the riverside acreage south of Adrian as well as everyone within the proposed corridor within Owyhee County.

Balderston and about a dozen members of the public turned out for last week’s scoping meeting concerning the Notice of Intent (NOI) filed by Idaho Power for the proposed transmission line, which might be completed by 2013. The meeting was one of five preliminary public meetings slated along the proposed 254-mile route of the 500kV, 1,500-megawatt line. The line would connect at the Hemingway Substation with the two 500kV Gateway West transmission lines, with a price tag estimated at $800 million to $1.2 billion. The Gateway lines are an attempt to connect the Hemingway Substation south of Givens Hot Springs to the Jim Bridger substation in Wyoming.

All but 39 miles of the proposed Boardman-to-Hemingway route lie on private land and will require easements. In some areas north of Adrian, the line crosses or follows the route of the historic Oregon Trail.

Balderston, who bought his parcel in July “is about ready to move,” he said. “All we need now is a freeway.”

“We weren’t there three weeks until we got the letter (from Sunstone),” Balderson said. Move the clock ahead a few months, and he’s at a NOI meeting, facing the prospect of a high-capacity powerline crossing his land as well.

Environmental engineers from Tetratech and URS, both firms working for Idaho Power on the project, found section maps and went over possible routes with Balderston, but the prospect of moving the line far enough to get it off his property seemed unlikely.

While the impact of transmission towers will be felt, the Sunstone pipeline worries Balderston more. The 42-inch pipe could be buried directly across his fields, and across nine of his own irrigation lines, themselves buried four feet deep.

How deep the gas line will be buried, how his irrigation lines will be repaired or rerouted, and how large and disruptive the trenching for the line will be are all unanswered questions, Balderston said. The transmission lines are just one more wrinkle in a larger worry for him, and for others on the route.

And the gas line and powerline worries are shared by Balderston’s neighbors in Owyhee County — specifically south of Homedale and Marsing — where property owners also have been contacted about both utility infrastructure projects.

The powerline route’s southern portion crosses into Idaho just north of Nyssa, Ore., heads southeast to a proposed Sand Hollow substation, then returns west-southwest to recross into Oregon just north of Adrian. It then turns south through Adrian, re-entering Idaho and Owyhee County southwest of Homedale and heading almost due southeast to the planned Hemingway substation.

Area landowners that have been surveyed for the Sunstone pipeline will likely be on or near the route, as both projects are following roughly the same line.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) helped host the Oct. 21 meeting in Marsing, and is involved in putting together the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. The BLM is also responsible for reviewing and granting rights-of-way on public lands, for seeing that National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) strictures are followed and issuing the Record of Decision (ROD) for the project’s final go-ahead.
Lucas Lucero, federal project manager for the BLM, and Idaho Power project engineer Doug Dockter fielded questions after a short presentation at the Phipps-Watson Marsing American Legion Community Center.
Concerns voiced by those attending included what effects a high-voltage line overhead would have on the health (and television reception) of those beneath. Dockter pointed out that the 250-foot right-of-way was intended to avoid that issue. A rancher asked how flexible Idaho Power were going to be in routing — given that the landowner had “just paid Idaho Power $16,000 to have them pull poles” in order to use his pivot irrigator. Another feared that “it’s a done deal” and asked if the BLM would “rubber-stamp anything that Idaho Power wants?”

Dockter and Lucero both stressed that these were the sorts of issues the BLM needed to be informed of. Neither gave a promise that towers would never interfere with landowners’ use of the land, those Idaho Power representatives repeatedly stressed their goal of minimizing any impact. Lucero was careful to explain that the BLM wasn’t in the position of approving anything at this point. They are putting together the draft EIS, which isn’t due for completion until spring of 2010, at which point there will be further public input. This will be followed by a final draft of the EIS in the winter of 2010.

The Boardman-Hemingway project will initially carry 800mW, 225mW of which is initially destined to fuel Treasure Valley power needs. The remaining 575mW of capacity will be used in the transmission of power from other grids to other users, Docktor said. Power from the Idaho grid could be sold to peak-use in Portland, when demands here are low, as well. The lines are “rented” for the transmission of power under a queue system at $18.88 per kW-hour. If the system operated steadily, with a full queue, that would be an income of $10,856,000 for Idaho Power each year (using the rates from this month from Idaho Power’s OASIS system). The lines, according to the project description, are capable of handling 1,500mW. If that is the case, it would increase possible queued power transmission tariff income to the utility to a maximum of $23 million each year.

This initial comment period following the NOI will continue for 45 days. The BLM asks that any comments or issues perceived by landowners be as detailed as possible. Comments can be made by mail to the Oregon Department of Energy, ATTN: Adam Bless, 625 Marion St. NE, Salem, Ore., or by email at adam.bless@state.or.us. Comments to the BLM can be sent to Lucas Lucero at the BLM – Vale District, 100 Oregon St., Vale, Ore. 97918, or by e-mail at B2HComments@BLM.gov. Comments may also be submitted online at www.boardmantohemingway.com.
— MML

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Powerline crosses hundreds of local properties

Commissioners concerned by route sited on private rather than BLM land

(Published 12/2/2008)

If the $1.2 billion Boardman to Hemingway project sees Idaho Power put its 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines along the route given in their EFSEC Notification Corridors maps, the number of private properties directly impacted in the northern Owyhee County and Adrian areas will almost certainly exceed 100.

That number assumes that half of the possibly impacted properties are bypassed; more than 200 private properties lie partially or wholly within the proposed route of the power lines, better than 100 on each side of the border in our immediate area.

The Boardman-to-Hemingway transmission line is slated to begin construction in two years.
The potential impact has county commissioners concerned, now that the scope of the project has been brought to their attention.

“It appears that this proposal will have to go through the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) process,” Owyhee County Board of Commissioners chair Jerry Hoagland said in an e-mail on Friday. “If the line crosses private property, a CUP will be necessary. If it is on (public) land, a CUP would not be needed.

“I would strongly support placing the line next to the existing PGE (Portland General Electric) line. It seems more reasonable to follow an existing corridor. Placing the proposed line across private property creates many issues that will impact the county and its citizens. I will make sure the Board of County Commissioners are watching and will issue a statement as we know more.”

As of Monday, no applications for CUPs have been made, to the best of Hoagland’s knowledge. Outside of a letter inviting commissioners to the initial scoping meeting in October, they have received no information from Idaho Power, he said.

“We have to go to Idaho Power to find out what’s going on,” Hoagland said of the next step facing the county.

The printed records of the proposed route do not address whether the line will follow the new West-Wide Energy Corridor (WWEC) on nearby Bureau of Land Management lands as defined in the release on Nov. 26 from the BLM and the Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Defense. The energy corridor’s final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) defines the federal corridor as being intended to “facilitate future siting of oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines, as well as electricity transmission and distribution facilities on Federal lands in the West to meet the region’s increasing energy demands while mitigating potential harmful effects to the environment.”

Examination of the maps seems to indicate the route within Owyhee County parallels the WWEC to the northeast, on the northeastern side of the existing PGE transmission lines, through private property. Just why the proposed Boardman-to-Hemingway 500kV transmission line is plotted across private land, when a parallel course through much more federal land on the WWEC is available, has not yet been addressed in detail by Idaho Power.

Idaho Power defends choice of route

“We followed the WWEC where we could, but in some spots it’s not conducive to what we’re doing,” project manager Eric Hackett said Monday.

“Through Owyhee County, we’re following the WWEC,” Hackett said. His next statement countered that stance, though. “Where we routed it, we looked at where the proposed Hemingway substation is … it just makes obvious sense to stay on the north side of that (existing PGE powerlines),” he said.

That takes the line out of the WWEC and puts it on private property.

“Whether it makes any logical sense to cross the existing powerline, to get into this West-Wide corridor, and then cross it again to get back up toward Sand Hollow (substation),” is a question Hackett says planners are asking. “That may not make a lot of sense in the end.”

Hackett cautioned that the centerline of the planned route was not decided. As scoping reports are compiled, he said there will be points they will have to address. Such as, should Idaho Power not site in the corridor, why they did not do so.

“We don’t feel we can legitimize being on the north side or the south side yet, until we put a little more analysis into really why it’s on the south side,” Hackett said.

Would it be preferable for Idaho Power to build the line on federal land, if all other things were equal?

“Neither. We’ve tried to make it real clear to the public that we didn’t make any distinction between private and public land when we’re looking at our routing,” Hackett said. “We look at the resources, both opportunities and constraints.” They look strictly at environmental resource constraints, comprehensive land-use plans and the like, he explained, not the ownership of the property.

“The preference (for the route) is simply based on what we feel is the most utilitarian path where the impact we have can be mitigated,” he said.

“It obviously seems with our project, with so much on private (land), that we’ve had some preference, but it really has just been a toss of the coin here, where unfortunately that’s how it’s ended up. It’s obviously provoking a lot of confrontation,” he said.

“The only way it (private ownership) will factor in, if we are on private property, we’ll try to work with property owners through negotiation to say ‘Where on your property would it be best for you?’,” he said.
Hackett tried to allay fears of blocked pivots and line irrigation by saying that towers could likely be sited on the corners of pivot-irrigated sections.

“We’re going to do everything we can not to put a tower right in the center of a pivot-irrigated area,” he said. “We’ll work hard to use the appropriate tower and appropriate spacing to minimize impact as much as possible.”

The 250-foot easements desired will, he said, be worked out on an individual basis as far as recompense is concerned.

He also addressed just why a more direct, straight north-south route from Sand Hollow to Hemingway, proposed earlier, was not selected, pointing to the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area and “other constraints” that made the route less attractive than a longer, looping route veering through Owyhee County and Adrian.

“We’re trying to find the least-cost scenario across the board, and sometimes that doesn’t look to make the most sense in a single, individualized area,” Hackett said.

Malheur issues letter over concerns

Landowner concerns over the line have grown lately, especially in Vale, where the Malheur County Court (commission) recently issued a letter expressing worries over the impact of the proposed corridor to the BLM project manager, Lucas Lucero, and Adam Bless of the Oregon Department of Energy. The letter followed a standing-room-only public meeting where property owners aired their concerns about the planned transmission project, which would stretch from Boardman to a proposed Hemingway substation in Owyhee County.
In the Nov. 14 letter, Malheur County Court Judge Dan Joyce voiced concerns that the route, as proposed, “would force a significant change and significantly increase the cost of effective farming practices” on Exclusive Farm-Use (EFU) land along the right-of-way of the line.

Under Oregon statutes, for any utility facility to be sited on EFU land, alternative corridors “on lower value and less intensely farmed lands as well as public lands must be included for review,” the letter states. It goes on to point out that most of the corridor in Malheur County is situated on EFU land, and that a suitable alternate route in compliance with the statute has not been proposed.

Potential impacts put forward in the letter included “effects on the aerial application of pesticides, fertilization, cultivation, wheel line or pivot irrigation systems and the maneuvering of farm equipment.” Conflicts arising from the towers, spaced roughly 1,000 feet apart, and the belly-sag of the lines, which may reach a minimum height mid-span of 30 to 35 feet, were raised by landowners present at the scoping meetings held by the BLM and Idaho Power at the end of October in both Oregon and Marsing.

The letter goes on to suggest that Idaho Power needs to submit alternative corridors on less intensively farmed land and federal land in order to comply with state law.

Other concerns expressed included the site of the line neighboring Malheur Butte, which the county is scrambling to protect as a scenic icon. What steps will be taken in Owyhee County remain to be seen.
Information on the project can be accessed at www.boardmantohemingway.com.

— MML

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(Published 02/04/09)

Interpretation leads to postponed B2H meeting


Commissioner: BLM, Owyhee don’t see eye-to-eye on coordination issue


A two-day meeting between officials from Owyhee County and the Bureau of Land Management that was to cover the proposed Boardman-to-Hemingway 500-kilovolt transmission line has been postponed.

The meeting, the topic of which was supposed to be the environmental impact statement regarding Idaho Power project, was scheduled for Tuesday and today in Ontario, Ore. But the BLM scrapped it, Board of County Commissioners chair Jerry Hoagland said.

Hoagland said the meeting has been rescheduled for March 9, but that he and his BOCC colleagues had cancelled other important meetings to make room for the discussion on this week’s agenda.

Hoagland suspected that the developments during a weekly teleconference with the Boardman-to-Hemingway EIS triggered the change of schedule.

“Nothing really came out of (the conference call with BLM rep Lucas Lucero) except that BLM wanted all the counties involved as cooperating agencies,” Hoagland said.

“And we informed them that we had already sent a letter that said we wanted to be a coordinating agency, and that threw them for a loop.”

Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), any county that has a land use plan in place or is developing one can request to be considered a coordinating party in any BLM actions, requiring the federal agency to take the county’s land use plan into consideration when making any related decisions.

Hoagland said the BLM claims that FLPMA doesn’t apply because the Boardman-to-Hemingway EIS isn’t a planning document.

“I think they’re a little confused,” Hoagland said of the BLM contingent. “All EIS’s are planning documents.”
Hoagland said that Malheur County also has requested coordinating agency status in the Boardman-to-Hemingway saga, and Baker County could have an argument to join the fray under that banner, too.

— JPB

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(Published 02/11/09)

OCA prepared to take on Idaho Power projects


The Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association put the three proposed Idaho Power transmission line projects on its radar Saturday.

During the winter meeting in Oreana, the OCA membership discussed the impact of the Boardman-to-Hemingway and Gateway West 500-kilovolt transmission lines that could traverse parts of Owyhee County. The ranchers also discussed the Hemingway substation and the smaller transmission line planned to stretch into Canyon County from that proposed structure.

But the cattlemen stopped short of adopting a resolution suggested by Frank Bachman to oppose the current proposed route of the Gateway West on the south side of the Snake River.

“It’s on the way, and I think we need to get geared up to get it re-routed,” Bachman said.

After discussion during which Bureau of Land Management Boise District director Aden Sedlitz said the draft environmental impact study wouldn’t be released until the spring, OCA president Bodie Clapier suggested forming a committee to craft a resolution proposal for the July meeting in Silver City.

Jordan Valley-area rancher Mike Hanley made clear that any EIS should include what the economic impact on the ranching community would be.

District 1 Commissioner George Hyer said that he and his Board of County Commissioners colleagues are active in the situation and in regular contact with the Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Power. He also said that Idaho Power is squeamish about the commissioners sharing coordination tips with other affected counties.

“We came in late, but we’re on top of it,” Hyer said. “(Idaho Power officials) really don’t want us to talk to the Oregon counties because we have policies in place.
“It’s one of the highest priorities we have right now.”

Connie Brandau, the county Planning and Zoning Commission chair, reminded the group of the two P&Z public meetings regarding the power line proposals. One will be held Feb. 24 in Marsing, and another Feb. 26 at Rimrock High School in Bruneau.

BOCC chair Jerry Hoagland, like Hyer a rancher, put it in plain terms for the cattlemen.
“It’s going to be a big deal, and I think everybody should be aware of it and treat it as an attack on their cattle operations,” he said.

— JPB

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(expanded version published 02/18/09)

P&Z, Idaho Power, BLM to take questions on B2H

P&Z will hold informational meetings on line route, allow forum for questions from landowners

Owyhee County Planning and Zoning will hold two meetings to inform and interact with the public concerning the Boardman to Hemingway, Bowman and Gateway West transmission lines and their proposed routes through Owyhee County. Idaho Power, BLM and Tribal representatives have been invited as well. Owyhee County Commissioners will also be present.

“The purpose (of the meeting) is to allow people to gather the facts, rather than having to rely on rumors, and to allow people to present their views to the Planning and Zoning Commission,” county consultant Fred Grant said in his letter of Feb. 4, in which he invited Idaho Power and project manager Doug Dockter.

Grant will act as hearing officer at the meetings, and lined out the processes that will be used in the meetings — rules Grant said were less rigid than those used at a public hearing, but which were “probably required … because of the warmth with which the issues involving these corridors are met.”

Those with questions will ask them from the podium — up to two questions per person — and presenters will answer. Following the question(s) the questioner will be given a two-minute period for a statement.
“We need people to show up at this meeting,” Mary Huff, Owyhee County Planning and Zoning Administrator said. Planning and Zoning is hoping for good attendance, she explained, as involvement of landowners is vital.

The first meeting will be held in Marsing on Feb. 24, at the Marsing Legion Hall and Community Center. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. A second meeting will be held in the south county, at the Rimrock Auditorium in Grand View on Feb. 26, again at 6:30 p.m.

The meetings are open to all Owyhee County property owners and citizens. Idaho Power representatives will present details of the project “including, but not limited to, timeline, scope of work, route designations and the NEPA process,” according to a release from Planning and Zoning.

Those in need of additional information can call Planning and Zoning at 495-2095.

— MML

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(Published 03/04/09)

Portion of B2H moves off farmland

Section near Homedale, Marsing, Adrian to shift to more BLM land

After roughly four months of input, the launch of several grassroots landowners organization and re-evaluation by planners at Idaho Power, a portion of the proposed route of the Boardman-to-Hemingway (B2H) 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission line has been relocated. Its planned date of initial operation has been backed up slightly, as well, to 2014. Initial project schedules had given a start date of June 2013.


The section, formerly plotted north of the existing PacifiCorp 500kV lines west and south of Homedale, has been rerouted south of the line, away from private property and onto the West Wide Energy Corridor (WWEC). The line as now proposed stays on public land to a far greater extent — in that section — than it did before. It has also been moved west of the heavily cultivated strip south of Adrian, and has relocated on Bureau of Land Management ground, only returning to cultivated land north of the city as it turns toward the proposed Sand Hollow substation.

The move was announced just days prior to the Planning and Zoning-requested public meeting held Feb. 24 at the Marsing American Legion Community Center. Approximately 60 interested landowners, activists and legislators attended the meeting. Land-use expert Fred Kelly Grant served as moderator.
At the meeting’s outset, Grant said that Nevada-based BLM director Lucas Lucero had confirmed that the newly plotted route is under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) examination. Lucero heads the Environmental Impact Statement studies for B2H.

The meeting was well-attended by a spectrum of those concerned, including numerous landowners, District 23 state Sen. Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson) and Rep. Stephen Hartgen (R-Twin Falls), all three Owyhee County Commissioners, county planning and zoning commissioners, Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association president Bodie Clapier, South Board of Control manager Ron Kiester and director Dave Shenk, Stop Idaho Power president Roger Findley, Boise BLM district manager Aden Seidlitz and Owyhee BLM field office manager Buddy Green.

Legal and engineering status of projects

Grant pointed out the work county commissioners had done to ensure Owyhee was a coordinating county on projects had been of importance in the process of moving the line. Unlike Baker and Malheur counties, Grant explained, Owyhee commissioners had chosen coordinating, rather than cooperating status, giving them a say in approval of any route or plan that impacts the county. That status, he said, means that both the BLM and Idaho Power have to comply with the county master plan as they would with resource or species impacts.

In other words, BLM approval under the NEPA process is sufficient for construction on public lands, but on private lands BLM NEPA approval must be accompanied by county approval. The governing act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), specifies that every practical way to make the project align with county policy must be taken, Grant said.

Idaho Power representative Mike Berry opened the meeting by addressing the changes in the route, saying that only the Hemingway substation is “set in stone” so far as planning goes. The substation, for which Idaho Power has already obtained county conditional use permits, is under construction, and will tap into the new B2H line, the proposed Gateway West line and the existing PacifiCorp line — which is not currently accessed at all by the Treasure Valley, he said.

Idaho Power engineer Todd Adams spoke briefly on the Hemingway-to-Bowmont 230kV line that is proposed to cross one piece of private land south of the river, before crossing into Canyon County. That line, a stepped-down service line from the Hemingway substation, will be a double-circuit line on a single set of poles. He also briefly touched on the Gateway West project that will run across southern Idaho — including the breadth of Owyhee County — connecting the Hemingway substation to a terminus point near Casper, Wyo. That line, Adams said, is intended to provide east-west transfer capability, and the proposed route has the line on approximately equal amounts of private and public land.

Jim Dickerson, representing TetraTech, the company performing considerable planning and project studies for Idaho Power, gave estimated dates for the draft Environmental Impact Statements on the two lines, on current routes. Gateway West can be expected this August, he said, and B2H sometime in mid-2010.

What helped move the route?

Berry, in looking back at the original and controversial route northeast of the PacifiCorp lines, explained the choice as one of necessity.

“We had to have something to file,” he said. “As soon as we started getting comments, we looked back at it.”
He credited the informative drive to Graveyard Point with Kiester and landowner Dennis Turner for helping “show their valid concerns.”

Berry admitted that Idaho Power had made some mistakes in the process.

“We messed up by not including more people from Owyhee County on (the Treasure Valley Electrical Plan community advisory committee),” he said. The 30-member committee, which had helped site the project substations in early planning did not include any members from Owyhee or Malheur counties.

One of the biggest headaches involved in the B2H project, Berry said, is in getting into and out of the proposed Sand Hollow substation east of Adrian. While the substation was sited as part of the “ring” of 500kV lines intended to address future needs in the Treasure Valley, Berry said the need for substation itself is being examined now, in light of the economic slowdown.

Impacts and worries

Berry addressed several worries and rumors that Idaho Power has heard. The first was condemnation of properties in order to secure a right-of-way.

“We do not make it a practice to condemn,” he said. He added that, in 18 years with the company, he had never seen a condemnation — though he had never seen a project as large as B2H or Gateway West, he admitted when asked.

Another concern broached was the possibility of other projects piggybacking on the B2H or Gateway West right-of-ways. The proposed Sunstone Pipeline was mentioned, and Berry said he was not aware of any negotiations with pipeline companies.

Sunstone, which put its pipeline plans on hold, has proposed routes that closely parallel the B2H route, but the company has not issued any news releases on the project since it went on hiatus in November.
Concerns over visual impacts were addressed, though Berry warned that, for property owners not directly affected by a line crossing their property, impacts to viewsheds were not compensated.

Opinions expressed

When the podium was opened for comments, those attending had an opportunity to put questions to Idaho Power, TetraTech and BLM representatives.

Rep. Hartgen spoke, pointing out that he had constituents living alongside 200 miles of proposed line.

“I believe this project should be on public ground, as I stated recently in The Avalanche,” he said. “Going over agriculture and private land when other options are available needs to be rethought.”

Hartgen, who serves on the House Committee for Environment, Energy and Technology, said he believed the region has an emergent and important role in transmission, wind generation and new energy technologies like biomass and geothermal, but cautioned opponents of the route not to let up “just because the line moves off your land.”

“Stay in touch, be involved,” he said.

Shenk also spoke, echoing Hartgen’s concerns.

“We do need to keep it on public land as much as possible,” he said. He added that the greatest need driving the project was located to the east, and that it would be wisest to ensure that Owyhee County didn’t bear a disproportionate impact from a project addressing needs that chiefly lay in other counties.

“From where I sit on the (Gem) Irrigation Board, it will make it a lot easier for us to function if it stays out of our laterals.” He added that Idaho Power should take heed of Kiester’s suggestion that a low-impact route was available paralleling the South Canal that would minimize conflicts.

Homedale’s Barney Harper, one of the organizers of Stop Idaho Power Owyhee County (SIPOC), the grassroots organization based on the one started to battle B2H in Oregon under Findley, said that while the planned route change was laudable, SIPOC would remain a “watchdog group” to monitor the process within the county as well as helping Findley and his organization with their ongoing fight in Malheur County.

Kiester then spoke, cautioning that while the route change was very positive for property owners along the affected sections, “we still have 6,000 acres of the Ridgeview Irrigation District to protect.” He reiterated his belief that a route west of the South Canal would be something that Idaho Power should carefully consider.

Findley had some specific questions about the line, and how much wattage was to be drawn off at the Hemingway substation to feed Treasure Valley. Of the 1,500-megawatt (mW) capacity of the proposed line, only 225mW are planned for use in the valley. When asked if that amount was the planned feed over the next 20 years, Berry affirmed that was so. Findley went on to make the point that more than 80 percent of the proposed line capacity was therefore open as leased capacity — a money-maker for Idaho Power, rather than being earmarked service for the Treasure Valley — something that will likely be broached by the Oregon Department of Energy when Idaho Power is questioned as to the need for a project of this size.

Findley was heartened by the rerouting in Owyhee County, though he said problems still exist in many areas of the route in Malheur County.

“It’s a start,” he said after the meeting. “Baby steps.”

District 2 County Commissioner George Hyer spoke as well.

“There’s been all kinds of statements and rumors,” he said. “We’ve been working on it since January, and we’re about five steps ahead of the public.” He invited anyone with any questions to contact any county commissioner for details whenever they needed them. The commissioners are holding biweekly teleconferences with Idaho Power in order to stay on top of the situation, he said. Hyer also pointed to the county’s coordinating status as a huge asset in the process of finding a suitable location for the line.
Seidlitz answered several questions as well, and seemed surprised when asked if the BLM had an interest in keeping power lines off BLM lands. Not only did the BLM have no such interest, he said that public lands were, in general, more accepting of transmission lines or other projects, so long as there weren’t conflicts with resources or species. Species impacts aren’t as limiting as some might think, and even in the locales where threatened species are present, limitations may only be applied to when construction and maintenance can occur, rather than a complete ban on all activity.

Landowner Dennis Turner spoke, again recommending that Idaho Power give serious consideration to Kiester’s suggestions as to a route west of the South Canal. He also summed up the current situation between north county property owners and Idaho Power.

“We were ready to batten down the hatches and fight you,” he said. “We’re glad we don’t have to. But we will.”

— MML

..

(Published 03/11/09)

B2H takes big step back

Transmission line route to be determined by committees of county residents, state and federal reps, others

Following comments and resistance from landowners, rounds of public meetings and two grassroots organizations fighting to move the line, Idaho Power has opened the doors to communities to help plot the

Boardman-to-Hemingway (B2H) line’s controversial route.
Idaho Power spokesperson Echo Chadwick refused to call the process a do-over — as the project itself is still a go, with National Environmental Policy Act and Oregon Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council applications in place — but it is a return to the design phase with the board open for suggestions. This decision removes the problematic Sand Hollow substation from the map, effectively allowing planners, now including residents of areas affected by the line, to determine where, and if, the proposed substation will be located, Chadwick said.
The Monday announcement spoke of the planned “coordination of a community advisory process to site the Boardman-to-Hemingway Transmission Project. The purpose of establishing the process is to engage and further include members of the local communities from Boardman, Ore., to Murphy, Idaho.”

“We recognize the need to pause and listen as a result of the public participation and comments received through the federal and state permitting process,” said Idaho Power’s vice president, Delivery Engineering and Operations Lisa Grow. Grow went on to say that, while the need for the project hasn’t changed, the approach to planning has.

“The intention is to conduct a comprehensive and inclusive public process to identify proposed and alternative routes required for this project to proceed,” she said in the release.

The planned project community advisory process will involve community members, state and federal government agencies and company representatives. Members will address three elements: “Identification of community issues and concerns, development of a range of possible routes that address community issues and concerns while following all federal, state, and local requirements, and recommendation of proposed and alternative routes with completion expected by the end of 2009.”

In other words, residents will be brought on board to help in the siting and impact assessment process of the 500kV B2H transmission line’s route. Existing proposed routes will remain on the map, but are now subject to suggestions and alternatives by the advisory committees.

Each regional advisory board will send a single member to a combined board, Chadwick explained.

“We are leveraging a proven collaborative approach with coordinating community advisory teams across our service area to establish this project siting process,” said Idaho Power’s delivery planning manager David Angell. “Feedback from prior participants indicates a successful experience for all involved, and we look forward to similar results for this project.”

People will have a more direct say in where the line — subject to limitations due to resources, cities, wildlife and engineering concerns — goes. Idaho Power expects this process to be more useful than the previous system, it seems.

Chadwick said that details on exactly how advisory boards will be filled is yet to be determined, and comments from Stop Idaho Power — both the Malheur and Owyhee branches — were not available as of deadline. Owyhee County Commissioners had only just heard of the decision, and said they wanted to familiarize themselves with the development before commenting.

— MML

..

(Published 03/25/09)

Advisory councils to site B2H line


Exact makeup of boards to be determined after meetings with regional representatives

In a process that may slow the timeline for the Boardman-to-Hemingway (B2H) transmission project, Idaho Power has decided that regional advisory committees will be formed, as was reported last week in The Owyhee Avalanche.

Details on the exact makeup of the boards are lacking, so far, as the new policy is in its infancy. The goals, though, are clear: to involve interested and impacted groups more closely in the project, and to have a far quicker turnaround on input and information.

David Angell, Idaho Power’s delivery planning manager, said that the speed — or lack of it — may have been a contributing factor to the now-scrapped original planning protocol.

“The whole idea is to use those who are very knowledgeable about the area, and to have quick feedback,” he said. The process that had been used, following the slower steps of the National Environmental Protection Act and Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council protocols led to frustration, and a feeling in property-owners and cities that their voices were being ignored.

Idaho Power would have a public meeting, he said, then go back and confer, perhaps draw up new maps and collate information — and it might be three weeks to a month before the project planners got back to the people with new information.

“For the public, that’s forever,” Angell said.

The new system will hopefully keep planners and public on the same page, and communicating in real time.

Finding committee members

Angell said that Idaho Power will be looking for representation from city, county, state and federal agencies to start, and will be making inquiries with county commissioners and city mayors from the three regions that will host the line. The project planners hope to use those local contacts to find representatives from the ranks of landowners, developers and business owners to bring into the committees. That initial questioning will occur this month, with a start-date in April for the first committee meetings. Public meetings would begin immediately afterward, keeping landowners and concerned citizens informed.

“We’ll look at particular individuals in the communities that can represent property owners really well — get a good cross-section of folks that understand and are willing to engage the public so we can understand what the concerns are and get them to the committee … to come up with the criteria for routing, to look at the proposed routes, and to rank them against the criteria.” he said.

The three “regions” of the B2H project are the Southeast (Owyhee, Malheur, Canyon, Payette and possibly Washington and Grant counties); a team built of representatives from Union and Baker counties, and a third group formed in Umatilla and Morrow counties. Within each committee, Angell said, there will be involved members representing agriculture, land-use, development and commercial interests. The largest planned committee would include about 30 members, he said.

A fourth committee tasked with overseeing the entire project will be formed by members from each regional team, he said.

When asked if any Stop Idaho Power activists would be involved in the committees, Angell was positive, though he refrained from reserving a seat at the table before planners had begun to research potential committee members.

“I think that would be likely, but I don’t want to say ‘They’re the first ones on the committee’,” he said. “It seems logical,” but planners want to take the process step-by-step.
Still, “They’re a grassroots organization that already has a network in place,” and he added that it would make sense to look at them.

Project timeline, specifics may change

When asked if the new siting methodology will delay the project, Angell cautioned that could be the case.

“We’re hoping to minimize the impact, but to absolutely think it won’t … is probably not realistic,” he said. “No dates have been changed yet.” Idaho Power hopes to finish the routing process in 2009, to be ready for next spring’s Environmental Impact Statement application deadline.

What effect this will have on the original 2013 proposed in-operation date for the project is not known.

The Sand Hollow substation has always been a lynchpin of friction for the project, and while it’s no longer on the map as such, nor set in stone, it’s not gone — at least as a concept.

“The main purpose (of the project) is to connect Boardman to Hemingway by 2013,” Angell said. The initial intent to build through the proposed Sand Hollow substation was to provide a future hardpoint for service to a growing Treasure Valley in the coming years.

Someday, depending on growth rates, another line will have to make its way east, circling the north portion of the valley. The original plan was to make use of the B2H line, through what Angell dryly called “The Substation Formerly Known As Sand Hollow” to get two benefits out of the project.

Was Sand Hollow the pill that couldn’t be swallowed for the B2H project?

“I think that’s a fair statement,” he said. The substation itself wasn’t the issue, so much as the lines joining it to the rest of the project and their crossing of extensive amounts of agricultural land, city impact areas and the like.
While some version of Sand Hollow may exist in the future, it’s no longer an integral part of the current plan. Idaho Power won’t make the substation a criterion for B2H “but if we can make use of Boardman-to-Hemingway for the 500kV loop … let’s have a dialog,” he said. Whether the future holds another substation, and a potential tap line into B2H, will remain to be seen.

“What we don’t want to do is build this 500kV line and, in 15 or 20 or 25 years, build another in the same area,” Angell said. “We want to optimize the facilities and minimize the number of lines.”

In the future, he warned, Idaho Power and Treasure Valley are still going to need transmission in that area.

“We’ll just have to figure out how to get into it from somewhere,” he said.


— MML

Gateway West update (Published 04/01/09)

Gateway West project may face its own resistance

Project unlikely to see community action groups in siting process

Despite the recent re-evaluation of the routing process brought to the table by Idaho Power Co. on its Boardman-to-Hemingway (B2H) 500kV transmission line, its sister project, the Gateway West 500kV line, does not seem to be inviting community and landowner involvement in its own siting. The Gateway West Transmission Line Project is a joint project between Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power to build, operate and maintain approximately 1,150 miles of new 230kV and 500kV transmission lines across southern Wyoming and southern Idaho.

“We’re working with Rocky Mountain Power to determine if our schedule with the Gateway West Project is going to allow something like what we’ve done with Boardman-to-Hemingway,” Idaho Power project manager Doug Docktor said Wednesday. “I don’t have an answer on that quite yet. We’re a little further along on the Gateway West project, and there are significant implications on doing that for the schedule, so I’m not sure how our partner is going to view that.

“What we’ve been doing instead of the community action groups that we’re forming for B2H, is we’ve been meeting with groups of private property owners in areas they do have concerns with,” he said, “and listening to those concerns, and trying to come up with an alternate route that would address their concerns that would be palatable to them as well as the project. I anticipate that’s probably how we’re going to end up with Gateway West.

“We have had a lot of success on that (sort of negotiation). So far, they (property owners) seem to be pretty pleased with what we’ve worked out with them.”

The line, which will cross the breadth of southern Idaho, including farm-use lands in the southern portion of Owyhee County, has remained below-the-radar to some extent, overshadowed by the fight of hundreds of landowners in Malheur and Owyhee counties against the controversial routing of B2H. That quiet may not last much longer, as residents in Murphy, Bruneau, Grand View and Oreana have begun to question the planned course of the line.

For landowners, time still exists to give input, and Docktor stressed that — while Gateway West is farther along in the planning process — routing flexibility still exists within, and possibly beyond, mapped corridors. However, the clock is ticking. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected in August, and the final EIS in June of 2010, roughly a year ahead of B2H.

The Bureau of Land Management should be holding a number of open houses and public meetings in the 90 days following the August release of the draft EIS, which will give Idaho Power a good idea of where the line will be on its public lands sections — roughly half the 1,000-mile line’s length.

“After that point we can really start looking at the private property,” Docktor said. “We’ll have to do some risk analysis to see how certain we think the route is going to end up on specific areas of the project on public lands to determine if we want to pursue any private information. We’ll have a really good idea of where it’s going to end up after the final Environmental Impact Statement, which is next year — so there’s still time in the process to evaluate the routes and come up with something that private property owners can live with.”

Docktor said the post-draft EIS public meetings and 90-day comment period was the time when concerned landowners needed to contact the project, either through the BLM or directly.

Idaho Power has just created a new Web site specific to Gateway West, which can be accessed at www.gatewaywestproject.com.

— MML

Gateway West update (Published 05/06)

Residents question Gateway West line planners

Residents’ voices heard, county cautious


More than 150 residents met to hear what Idaho Power and others had to say about the proposed route of the 500kV Gateway West transmission line on Thursday at the American Legion Hall in Bruneau.


Residents from Grand View, Bruneau, Oreana and Murphy, along with all three Owyhee County Commissioners, representatives from the Idaho Power Co. and the Bureau of Land Management, gathered at a town hall meeting organized by Frank Bachman of Grand View. Representatives Stephen Hartgen and Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson) were present, along with representatives from Sen. Mike Crapo and U.S. Rep. (R-Twin Falls) Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) according to Leah Osborne, who attended the meeting, and who has been with the grassroots opposition to the line as planned.

While no major surprises arose, many questions did. The atmosphere of the meeting was understandably tense.

“The general feelings were not real complimentary to Idaho Power, of course. It’s too close to heart,” Osborne said. “It’s too close to heart, and people were rudely awakened by somebody putting stakes outside their ground.

“It was a good meeting, we got a lot of support from our state reps and all the commissioners. Frank Bachman did a real nice job of organizing everybody. There weren’t any fights or foul language.”

“A lot of people were blindsided by the stakes,” she said. “There was a lot of that going on. But the support by everybody was great.”

Brackett spoke before the assembly, asking that people stay together and hold the line, Osborne said.

Idaho Power project manager Doug Dockter was present, explaining the status of the line, and the upcoming preliminary Environmental Impact Statement this August. Once they had done so “the questions started flying.” Osborne said. “And there were some good questions. People had done some research.”

Osborne and fellow advocate for moving the GW line, Robyn Thompson, are moving to form a committee at this time, shifting what they started as a calling-list, door-to-door information campaign to a war-footing.

“The meeting was just excellent – it gave everybody the direction we needed to go in,” Osborne said. “Forming the committee, working with BLM and Idaho Power to get a new route proposed.”

“He’s quite good at being vague,” Osborne said of Dockter. “He didn’t seem to really care where it went. He wasn’t jumping up and down saying ‘We can’t move it’.”

The BLM received considerable focus for its unwillingness, or inability, to allow the line through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

“Whether they’d be willing to work with us on putting it through Birds of Prey is questionable, of course,” she said.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but we ain’t done,” Osborne observed.

“It was a promising meeting, it really was,” she said.

South Owyhee County residents impacted by — or concerned about — Gateway West can contact Bachman at 845-2090 or Osborne at 249-9702. Organizers are looking for committee members.

County keeping sharp eye on project

District 2 Owyhee County Commissioner George Hyer is worried on several points connected with the project. With Gateway West being further along in planning, with surveyors and stakes in the field and the first round of public comment long since over, he felt that the project had been “slipped past” people, something that has left him less willing to trust statements from Idaho Power or the BLM.

“I told Walt George, the head guy, that it’s county policy by resolution that any public utility goes on public ground,” Hyer said of his conversation with the BLM’s project lead. He stressed that they, too, would have to follow the strictures and respect county ordinance insofar as Federal Lands Policyand Management Act (FLPMA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are concerned.

It’s an important fight, to Hyer.

“Like I told the people in Oreana,” he said, “this is just the first. I’m sure down the road there are going to be many more trying to come through. We’re just going to have to stay on them. I told them if we lose this, the whole county loses this as far as I’m concerned.”

Still, Hyer believe there are tools to hand to deal with the situation.

“We have to find out our options still under the FLPMA and NEPA process, we should be able to do something,” he said.

— MML

 

(Published 06/17)

B2H project sees local input


PATs begin work of siting Boardman to Hemingway power line

The contentious Boardman-to-Hemingway transmission line project has entered a new, more cooperative phase of planning, according to Idaho Power spokesperson Lynette Berriochoa.

Last month, the first meeting was held for the southern Project Advisory Team that Idaho Power has put together, with advice from “community/civic leaders as well as individuals who expressed an interest in this collaborative process,” she said. 

Attending the initial meeting were 48 community members, landowners, elected officials, and organizational representatives, who gathered at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario. Local representatives on the south team include Marsing Mayor Keith Green, Homedale Mayor Harold Wilson, Owyhee County Planning and Zoning administrator Mary Huff, Owyhee County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland, Adrian grower Larry Price, Dick Symms of the Symms Fruit Ranch and Adrian Mayor Clay Webb.

Adam Bless and Sue Oliver of the Oregon Department of Energy, Regional Bureau of Land Management coordinator Lucas Lucero, Idaho Power senior vice president Dan Minor, consultant Rosemary Curtin and project engineer Eric Hackett were among those attending.

Huff attended the meeting, and believes the process is being proposed in good faith by Idaho Power.

“I thought they picked representatives from everyone who was their opposition,” Huff said. “They didn’t stack the deck.”
She said that Idaho Power officials stressed they were willing to listen to input and suggestions on the routing of the line — that the PATs were a potentially valid routing method, rather than just a public relations move.

The PATs are Idaho Power’s response to resistance generated by its original provisional route for the Boardman-to-Hemingway 500-kilovolt transmission lines — a route that followed private land for more than 80 percent of its 300-miles-plus length. There are three PATs, each specific to a geographic section of the line, and each team will send members to a project coordinating team that will try to smooth transitions between geographic areas, according to Idaho Power.

With the PATs, Idaho Power hopes that a route more acceptable to everyone can be determined. The initial meeting was a success from Idaho Power’s standpoint, Berriochoa said in response to an inquiry by The Owyhee Avalanche.

“We had 100 percent attendance from those who committed to the team and it was a productive evening,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Team members learned about the project overall, the purpose and need, work done to date, and how the community advisory process would work. They later went into three working groups, facilitated by our consultant team RBCI of Boise, and began to identify issues and concerns about the project.” RBCI refers to Boise-based professional consultant-facilitator Rosemary Curtin of Rosemary Brennan Curtin Inc.

Comments reported by Stop Idaho Power after the meeting stressed a united front on the part of PAT members to keep the line off exclusive farm use land in Malheur County. If that carries through, odds are that Adrian might not see the line in the cultivated bottomland along the Snake River. Shifts in the central portion of the line may affect where the line crosses into Owyhee County, but until routing plans begin in subsequent meetings, no specifics will be known.

Following the first orientation meeting, the PAT members will learn the finer points of electric infrastructure, siting and permitting processes, and the goals and criteria used in designing the line route, Berriochoa said.

Team members were chosen who “share an interest in reaching consensus and mapping a route that works from a permitting, environmental and engineering perspective,” she said.

The other PATs have met in Boardman, and in Baker City. Based on the southern PAT meeting in Ontario, Berriochoa is “optimistic about the progress we will make together.”


— MML

Gateway West update (Published 06/24)

Gateway project to bore almost 1,000 test holes

Idaho Power is nearing test-drilling to determine the depth of anchors needed for the proposed Gateway West transmission line that will stretch from Wyoming to Murphy. Last week saw release of the draft Geotechnical Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project, and the opening of a period of public comment.

The EA was designed to evaluate “the environmental and social effects” of the plan, the introduction to the EA states. As given on page 6 of the report, grazing and prime farmland would see “negligible or no effect” from the drilling.

The plan itself calls for 1,149 miles of route, and 873 miles of alternate route, to be tested. Of the more than 900 bore holes, each 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 40 feet deep, at private land owners have refused access to approximately 50 sites at present. There may be more, as the EA states that responses have not been received from many of the landowners and agencies involved.

The drilling would be accomplished by licensed Wyoming and Idaho drillers, according to the EA, with each team involving a drill rig, water truck, and one or two four-wheel-drive support vehicles, boring approximately two holes each day.
Under the proposed plan 188 boreholes are planned on farmland and 665 on grazing land. Bore sites were chosen that have proximity to existing roads, and the EA said no road-building will occur.

The Bureau of Land Management will accept comments on the EA through July 22. The EA is available for public review on the BLM Gateway West Web site, http://www.wy.blm.gov/nepa/cfodocs/gateway_west.

Maps of the project area at 1:100,000 scale and a draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) are also available on the Web site.

The existence of the draft FONSI indicates that BLM has found no issues with the proposal that would stop the drilling.

The BLM is providing a 30-day period for comment on the EA prior to signing a FONSI and Decision Record, according to a release issued Friday. “All valid comments submitted by July 22 will be considered and addressed prior to publication of the Decision Record,” it said. Comments may be submitted through the project Web site, by e-mail to Gateway_West_WYMail@blm.gov, or in writing to Randy Sorenson, BLM - Casper Field Office, Gateway West Transmission Line Project,
2987 Prospector Drive,
Casper, WY, 82604-2968.

Gateway West update (Published 07/22)

BLM decides to delay Gateway West EIS


Comments on alternate routes to be taken through Sept. 4


After months of controversy, public meetings, and initial plan dates calling for an environmental impact statement (EIS) next month, the Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday that the EIS for the Gateway West transmission line will be delayed, and that public comment on the proposed route of the project will be accepted through Sept. 4. The decision came after a request by local legislators and landowners to slow the process to allow for additional input.

The announcement, made after a meeting of ranking BLM officials from affected states, backs up the release of the EIS until next spring.

Idaho Power and BLM releases both solicited input from landowners and other members of the public. Any comment can be made directly to the BLM by e-mail to Gateway_West_WYMail@blm.gov or by regular mail to: Bureau of Land Management, Gateway West Project, P.O. Box 20879, Cheyenne, WY 82003.

The move was met with appreciation by local lawmakers (see Letters to the Editor). District 23 Rep. Stephen Hartgen (R. Twin Falls) mentioned that he will review the proposed route changes in Owyhee County at the Owyhee Cattlemens Association meeting Saturday in Silver City. The two current alternate routes under discussion both pleased Hartgen.

“New options maps, which I saw this week, show alternatives under consideration as, one, a route plan further south in much of Owyhee County, and, two, an alternative which jumps the river east of Bruneau and comes along the river on the northside,” Hartgen said in an e-mail to The Owyhee Avalanche.

“Either of these, in my view, would be way more preferable than the initial proposal, as they avoid the farm and agricultural irrigated lands of our county.”

Local landowners and members of government have repeatedly expressed displeasure at and frustration with what they see as a lack of proper early public input into the project; something that many believe would have kept the initial route from crossing a high percentage of agricultural land in Owyhee and Malheur counties.

The BLM “reaffirms its obligation to obtain and consider public input and work with the project proponents, Idaho Power Company and Rocky Mountain Power Company, to ensure alternative routes address public concerns and meet the utilities’ objectives for the project,” according to the BLM’s release. It said “reasonable alternatives” developed by Sept. 4 “will be analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

Additional meetings to finalize alternative routes will be arranged in local areas by Idaho Power, Rocky Mountain Power, local governments and other groups, according to the BLM release. It added that “notices of future meetings will be announced in the local media.” Meetings with tribal governments are also planned, though no dates for meetings were given.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s office issued a release within hours of the BLM and Idaho Power.

Otter said the decision showed a commitment to working closely with counties, citizens’ groups and private property owners to address concerns.

“What we do with Gateway West will go a long way toward showing the federal government that we can resolve our own issues here in Idaho,” he said in the statement.

The Gateway West Transmission Line Project, proposed by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, would build approximately 1,150 miles of high voltage transmission lines from Glenrock, Wyo., to Murphy. The two companies applied to the BLM and U.S. Forest Service for right-of-way grants to construct, operate and maintain these transmission lines in 2007.

— MML

(published 08/05/09)

BLM land route for power line not a guarantee

Farmland not off the table, landowners need to be involved, advisory team member warns

Property owners need to realize that the Boardman to Hemingway transmission line may still wind up on their land, county commissioner and Project Advisory Team (PAT) member Jerry Hoagland said last week.


Hoagland attended a meeting of the PAT July 28 in Ontario. The PATs are intended as a venue for public input in plotting and suggesting alternate routes for the Boardman to Hemingway power line.

“It was a little interesting,” Hoagland said.

Meeting with representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Energy and an environmental consultant for Idaho Power, PAT members heard a presentation on restrictions faced in routing.

“There wasn’t a lot of information.” Hoagland said of the question and answer session that followed. “They seem to have layers of restrictions and priorities, and it makes me really worried as to how much input we’ll really have (on siting the line).”

The PAT requested copies of the restrictions maps, Hoagland said, something not available at the meeting.

Between endangered and threatened species, winter forage ranges, wilderness potential, watershed and viewshed concerns, “it goes on and on,” Hoagland said of the limitations placed on routing.

“It’s going to be a challenge … especially in Oregon,” he said. The Oregon portion of the route must deal with a very complex mix of farmland and restrictions. Even the less-densely restricted Idaho portion of the route area in Owyhee County may be problematic, and the latest pronouncement from overseeing organizations worries Hoagland.

“On the Idaho side, discussion came back about crossing farm ground in Owyhee County, and that’s a concern, especially as there aren’t as many restrictions on the Idaho side.”

Hoagland said input by farmers and ranchers at a public meeting, slated for 4 p.m., Aug. 26, at the American Legion Community Center in Marsing, would be crucial.

“I hope they can get a big turnout at this meeting in Marsing,” Hoagland said. People from throughout the county need to come forward and support their property rights and give their opinion on where the line should or shouldn’t be, he said.

“In all honesty, I think Idaho Power would like to hear it, too,” he said of direct landowner input via the scheduled meeting. “I think it would be beneficial.”

“I don’t know that end (the north) of the county as well, and I hope we’re not forcing it on someone’s property,” he said. Landowners’ presence and involvement in the meeting, he said, is critical to avoid waking up to 190-foot steel transmission towers on one’s property. He reiterated his warnings:

“Farm ground is not off the table yet. It could come back because of some idiotic restrictions,” he said. He added that he worried landowners might assume that routing the line away from their property was already accomplished, and would become complacent.

“It’s not all right until it’s done,” Hoagland warned.

— MML

(published 10/07/09)

Planning meeting roughs in powerline routes


No maps yet available on dozen potential courses for B2H

After months of work and hundreds of hours of meetings, discussion and planning, members of the Project Advisory Teams (PATs) involved in the Community Advisory Process (CAP) for the planned Boardman-to-Hemingway powerline came together last week to pencil in alternate routes for the 350-mile project.


Those involved in the CAP process rendezvoused in Ontario, Ore., last week and, using GIS software, plotted a skein of potential routes from Boardman, Ore. to the under-construction Hemingway Butte substation north of Murphy. Dozens of community, corporate and organizational representatives — including some from Owyhee County government and grassroots organizations — took part in the mapping.

Unfortunately, no map showing the dozen or so alternate routes plotted in each of the three regions that comprise the line is yet available from Idaho Power.

Stephanie McCurdy, communication specialist for Idaho Power, said that Idaho Power was leery of releasing early maps, after earlier proposed routes were too often seen as fixed rather than simply suggested.

McCurdy said that a route map wouldn’t be released until analysis of proposed routes had been done. Kent McCarthy, Idaho Power planner and manager for the CAP, said input was to be taken from some outlying areas not previously involved, such as Harney County and Grant County in Oregon. Those counties are now involved because some of the suggested alternates cross them.

Once an initial analysis of the feasibility of the routes is done, the information will first be brought to the PAT members for another round of input as to which will be pursued, McCurdy.

Of the 130-or-so routing suggestions entered, many were in accordance with or endorsed Stop Idaho Power’s suggested routes, McCurdy said.

McCarthy said planners had done a good job of working around the many restrictions and limitations imposed by various government agencies, landscapes and usage. Some routes involved plots through National Forest land, and McCurdy said a meeting with the Forest Service was to be held to discuss possible impacts or concerns.

The next stage in the process will be to find those routes that are the best balance between impact, cost and technical difficulty, McCarthy said. At some point, likely in November or later, initial maps of potential routes should be put together for public perusal. Rounds of public meetings would follow, prior to the routes being submitted for a draft Environmental Impact Statement by the Bureau of Land Management, in accordance with National Environmental Protection Act rules.

— MML

Gateway West update (published 10/07/09)

County submits Gateway West alternatives

Proposed routes added to EIS database; more public comment next year

Owyhee County has weighed in on the quest for an acceptable route for the proposed Gateway West power line.

The Board of County Commissioners sent a letter and map to several agencies involved in the siting process that outlines the county’s preferred alternatives, one southern and one northern. The proposals have been included in the draft Environmental Impact Study process. Although the commissioners were asked to submit two alternatives, BOCC chair Jerry Hoagland said the county prefers the southern path.

County officials and landowners and engineers from Tetratech and Idaho Power met Monday night after deadline to discuss concerns centering on a sage grouse lek area on the county’s proposed southern route, and an area near CJ Strike Dam on the northern, Hoagland said Thursday. Hoagland believed solutions could be found for both areas.

Gateway West project regulators and planners are expected to have analysis done on proposed routes from citizenship groups in March or April, with additional public comment periods to follow, he said.

The commissioners solidified their alternative route proposals after conferring with affected citizens and business interests, including Simplot Livestock in the Grand View area, which was represented by Chuck Jones.

“It was beneficial having him on the board because some of that (power line) is going to cross some Simplot properties,” BOCC chair Jerry Hoagland said.

The county hand-delivered the packet to three officials with BLM and Idaho Power and mailed it to a fourth federal official based in Wyoming.

 “The alternatives that are under consideration for the portion of the Gateway West Powerline proposed to transit Owyhee County are not acceptable to us,” the letter states.

The letter was sent to BLM state director Tom Dyer, BLM Gateway West project manager Walt George, Dan Minor of Idaho Power and Doug Dockter, Idaho Power’s Gateway West project manager. George since has been reassigned from his project manager position, which was a planned move.

The BLM will review all alternatives and work with project engineers to come up with a route, Hoagland said. When a route is solidified, environmental studies will be conducted, probably no earlier than next spring. Hoagland anticipates a draft Environmental Impact Study will be available in March or April for another round of public comment.

“I think they’re going to take it seriously,” Hoagland said of project officials’ acceptance of Owyhee County’s proposal.

“There are a lot of people concerned.”

Following a BLM request, the county developed and presented two alternate routes — one southern, one northern — for the Gateway West line. In their letter, the commissioners applied a strong preference to the northern route over the proposed southern route.

“This route places this important public works project on, with few exceptions, the lands retained in the ownership of the federal and state governments,” the letter says of the northern route.

The commissioners have asked that their two proposed routes be included in the draft EIS and that the original route proposed by BLM and Idaho Power be dropped from the document.

The county’s proposed northern route will follow Idaho Power’s proposed path through the county until the vicinity of the Bruneau Sand Dunes, at which point it diverts and heads along the peninsula between the Snake and Bruneau rivers, Hoagland said.

According to Hoagland:
The line crosses the Snake River at CJ Strike Dam and then crosses back into Owyhee County at Swan Falls. From the point that it re-enters the county, the county’s preferred route stretches to the northwest along Murphy Flat on the south side of Sinker Creek and to the north of private farm ground. Just before reaching the Con Shea Basin, the route turns west and heads toward the Rabbit Creek Trailhead, where it turns again and heads directly for Hemingway Butte substation currently under construction.

“We tried to avoid as much private property as possible,” Hoagland said.

The District 1 commissioner from Wilson said that private ground affected by the county’s northern preference could include some Simplot Co. ground on the north side of the Snake and possibly some parcels between the Bruneau Sand Dunes and CJ Strike Dam.

The southern route heads south from the sand dunes, paralleling the Bruneau River. At the mouth of Bruneau Canyon, the line would turn to avoid private property before looping behind Grand View, Bruneau and Oreana. The line passes near Sinker Creek and travels about a mile outside Murphy before connecting at Hemingway.

Hoagland said he gets the impression that Idaho Power prefers the county’s proposed southern route, but there could be problems with environmental groups because of the presence of sage-grouse leks.

— JPB

 

 

 

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