Idaho governor: BLM ‘ignored’ collaborative effort on Gateway West project

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is calling for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials to visit his state to discuss the preferred alternative routes chosen for the proposed Gateway West transmission line project, which he said lack support from local communities and others.

In an Oct. 10 letter, Otter asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to send to Idaho BLM Acting Director Mike Pool, BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System Director Carl Rountree “and other relevant decision makers” from BLM headquarters by mid-November to discuss the preferred alternative routes for segments 8 and 9 of the project, noting that they “significantly infringe on private property in Idaho.”

According to Otter, the BLM did not include a designated preferred alternative in the project’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) and instead directed interested stakeholders to work together in determining the “correct” route.

Despite the state’s objections to the absence of a preferred alternative in the draft EIS, state agencies, local governments, citizens, state and local BLM staff and Morley Nelson Birds of Prey National Conservation Area staff collaborated to identify and propose a consensus route, he said.

“Ultimately, BLM headquarters chose to disregard these collaborative efforts and selected preferred alternative routes that do not have the support of the state, local communities, or state and local BLM staff,” Otter said. “In so doing, BLM headquarters ignored two years of collaborative effort and its own justification for not including a designated preferred alternative in the draft EIS.”

DOI spokesperson Blake Androff told TransmissionHub Oct. 23 that the final EIS, scheduled to be released later this year, represents the culmination of a comprehensive planning process involving the public, Native American tribes and numerous cooperators to analyze options for a balance of uses across the planning area. 

“The BLM will continue to analyze and consider all alternatives, including the preferred alternative, to reach a final decision,” Androff said. “The final decision will not be made until 2013, after opportunities for further public and inter-governmental input and involvement occur this winter.”

A Gateway West project spokesperson told TransmissionHub earlier this month that the project still needs to get through the rest of the National Environmental Policy Act process, including the final EIS from the BLM and a record of decision.

Gateway West, a proposed line between Glenrock, Wyo., and Melba, Idaho, that would include 300 miles of 230-kV lines and 800 miles of 500-kV lines, is intended to alleviate capacity constraints in the region, according to the project website.

The project is proposed by PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power and by IDACORP (NYSE:IDA) subsidiary Idaho Power.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3054 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.