BPA to issue I-5 corridor draft EIS in late fall

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) on June 29 said it expects to issue its draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for its I-5 corridor reinforcement project in late fall.

While the agency had originally planned to issue its DEIS by the fall of 2011, an unprecedented amount of input from the public and stakeholders forced BPA to delay issuing the document by approximately one year.

“We have had more public participation, issues to consider and data to collect for this project than any in recent memory and possibly ever,” BPA transmission services project manager Mark Korsness said in a statement announcing the anticipated release date.

The additional time allows BPA to consider the comments it has received about the project, as well as to consider a complete environmental analysis of issues identified by landowners and stakeholders. “This will help BPA make a well informed decision about a preferred alternative and ultimately whether, and where, to build a new line and substations,” BPA said.

BPA announced the proposed project in the fall of 2009 and has identified four alternative routes.

The DEIS will identify the agency’s preferred alternative for the 500-kV line that will run approximately 70 miles, depending on the route selected, between new substations in Castle Rock, Wash., and Troutdale, Ore.

A fifth route, the so-called “gray line” route proposed by citizens’ groups, would have taken the line farther east than any of the other four. However, BPA determined it would not have provided benefits as robust as proponents claimed.

“It didn’t eliminate as many private land owners who would be affected by the project as most folks would have thought,” a BPA spokesperson told TransmissionHub in January when the agency decided not pursue the gray line. In addition, BPA estimated the gray line route would have added $30m to the $342m project, added 10 mile to 15 miles to the line, and delayed BPA’s environmental impact study by up to two years.

Supporters of the gray line option said they just wanted the BPA to consider alternate routes that avoid populated areas.

Between now and the release of the DEIS, BPA said, the document will undergo rigorous internal review. Once the draft is released, the agency will provide ample time for interested parties to review and comment on it.

BPA said the proposed project is needed to serve the area’s growing population.

“The last high voltage transmission line along this section of the I-5 Corridor was built over 40 years ago,” BPA said on its project web page. “Meanwhile the population in the area has doubled.”

In its project fact sheet, BPA said, “Without a new line, BPA will be unable to adequately serve local needs and meet existing obligations and new requests for transmission service.”