BPA extends comment period on I-5 project

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has extended the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the I-5 corridor reinforcement project by more than three weeks, the agency said on Jan. 30.

The extension adds 24 days to the original 108-day comment period that BPA opened Nov. 14, 2012. Parties now have until noon Pacific time on March 25 to provide input on the draft EIS, a total of 132 days for comments. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires a comment period of at least 45 days following release of a draft EIS.

The agency decided on the unusual number of days for the extension as a way to balance requests to provide additional time for comments with requests to keep the project on schedule and deliver a decision as quickly as possible.

“This strikes a balance that should meet the needs of those requesting an extension, and those eager for us to reach our decision on the proposed project,” Mark Korsness, BPA project manager, said in a statement announcing the extension. “We feel this decision reflects the many perspectives impacted parties have expressed since we released the draft EIS in November.”

The nearly 2,000-page draft EIS, issued after three years of information-gathering and analysis, describes the proposed project and why it is needed, discusses the environmental impacts the project would create, and lists mitigation measures that would mitigate or eliminate those impacts.

The extension of the comment period marks another delay in the project, which has already seen its share of setbacks. For intance, BPA had initially anticipated issuing the draft EIS in the fall of 2011. The document’s release was delayed to the spring of 2012, then delayed again to the fall of 2012 so BPA could complete its analysis and make sure it considered the public input the agency received.

Originally, the agency had hoped to start construction in 2013 and anticipated an in-service date of 2016. Now, BPA expects to complete and release the final EIS in 2014, which will be followed by a record of decision that will announce BPA’s final decision on whether to build the project. 

If the decision is made to move forward, negotiations with affected property owners will be the next step in the process. BPA would then expect construction to begin in 2015 and complete in 2018. The project is estimated to cost $459m, according to TransmissionHub data.

The I-5 corridor reinforcement project is a proposed 500-kV transmission line that would run from a new substation near Castle Rock, Wash., to a new substation near Troutdale, Ore. The new line would increase the transmission capacity in the southwest Washington and northwest Oregon area, and will allow BPA to provide for local load growth, maintain reliable power, and accommodate requests for long-term, firm transmission service, the agency said on its project website.