TransWest Express adds agency-preferred routes to draft EIS

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the joint lead agencies on the proposed TransWest Express, have released a map detailing the agency-preferred routes that will be included in the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that will be released in the spring of 2013.

Originally anticipated this fall, the document’s release was delayed to allow the agencies to develop an agency-preferred route and include it in the DEIS.

“We have over 50 cooperators in this project,” Sharon Knowlton, BLM’s project manager, told TransmissionHub Nov. 5. “We felt that it served their needs to develop an agency-preferred route and provide that in our draft, so that was part of the reason for our delay: to get that in our document.”

The additional corridor alternatives were developed over the summer and a map of the alternatives included in the project’s October newsletter.

“We’re studying a two-mile-wide corridor through [project] areas, although the transmission line right-of-way will only be 250 feet,” Knowlton said.

Although agency-preferred routes will be included in the DEIS, nothing has been decided, she added.

“We’re still fully analyzing the remaining alternatives, and it’s not a guarantee that the record of decision will be issued on what is considered the preferred alternative route, but it helps the cooperators to focus on that and provide substantive comments” about the recommendation, Knowlton said.

The record of decision is anticipated in 2014, probably toward the second half of the year, she said, though further delays are possible.

“A lot of times, new issues come up and we try to do our best to focus on those, but the BLM has been a collaborative agency so we do work to build consensus, and that sometimes takes time,” Knowlton added.

TransWest Express is planned as a 600-kV overhead direct current transmission line that will cross public and private lands. Designed to carry 3,000 MW of renewable power generated in Wyoming to the desert southwest, the project begins in south central Wyoming, crosses northwestern Colorado, crosses Utah diagonally from northeast to southwest and ends south of Las Vegas at the Marketplace hub in the El Dorado Valley area near Boulder City, Nev. 

The project is estimated to cost $3bn, will be approximately 725 miles long depending on the route selected, and is expected to be in service in 2017, according to TransmissionHub data.

WAPA plans to partially fund the project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The project is one of seven projects selected as a pilot fast-track project by the Obama Administration’s rapid response team for transmission, which was established to coordinate the permitting review among the numerous federal and state agencies involved, provide consistent consultation with tribal governments, and assist in resolving interagency conflicts.