BLM releases preliminary preferred routes for B2H, Gateway South projects

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released its proposed routes and preliminary preferred alternatives for the proposed Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) project from the Grassland substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho, and its preliminary preferred routes for the proposed Gateway South transmission line project from Wyoming to Utah.

BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) published a map of the proposed route and preliminary preferred alternatives for the B2H project in the project newsletter published July 29, while BLM made public a map of the Gateway South preliminary preferred route on July 24.

Boardman to Hemingway

“Early identification of the preliminary preferred [B2H] alternatives allows [project developer] Idaho Power to continue the simultaneous federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and [Oregon] Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) review of the proposed project,” BLM and USFS said in their newsletter. “While the recommendations are preliminary, they have given Idaho Power an indication of what may become the final preferred alternative and allows [it] to advance fieldwork and likely modify [its] state application before review by the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) proceeds much further.”

The proposed route is approximately 300 miles long and crosses federal, state and private lands in six counties in Oregon and Idaho.

The proposed route for B2H parallels Interstate 84 from the Grassland substation to the point where the highway meets the borders of Umatilla and Union Counties in Oregon, then follows I-84 to approximately Huntington, Ore. From there, the proposed route heads west to near Brogan, Ore., before turning southeast and again paralleling I-84 until it reaches the Hemingway substation.

“Even with an early announcement of BLM’s preliminary preferred alternatives, additional data collection across the project area continues,” BLM and USFS said. “New information may influence the recommendation of the preliminary preferred alternatives and/or result in minor route variations.”

The 500-kV project will increase capacity between the Pacific Northwest and Idaho and will improve the Idaho Power network and provide interconnections to renewable energy customers. According to TransmissionHub data, the project is expected to cost between $890M and $940M, and enter service in 2018.

Gateway South

The preliminary preferred route for the Gateway South project was selected from numerous options that could have resulted in a route ranging from 400 miles to 540 miles. The agency chose the 427-mile route it believed would have the least environmental impact, as it largely follows an established energy corridor, parallels existing utility corridors, and avoids sensitive areas including sensitive habitat and other areas.

“Primarily, we tried to follow the West-wide Energy Corridor [and] parallel other existing corridors, such as disturbances that are already there from a pipeline or from another transmission line,” a BLM spokesperson told TransmissionHub July 29. “We had to snake our way through areas where there are sage grouse core areas, sensitive or specially designated areas such as wilderness study areas, and we were also cognizant of areas that are just geographically difficult such as mountain ranges.”

As presented, the preliminary preferred route starts at the planned Aeolus substation northwest of Medicine Bow, Wyo., and parallels U.S. Highway 30 to approximately 10 miles west of the Creston substation before turning southeast and following state highway 789 toward Baggs, Wyo., before turning west and crossing into Colorado about 20 miles west of Baggs.

In Colorado, the preliminary preferred route heads south along the east side of Brown Park National Wildlife Refuge and Dinosaur National Monument, then parallels U.S. Highway 40, the town of Dinosaur, where it turns southwest before entering Utah.

In Utah, the preliminary preferred route continues west-southwest to a point about 20 miles north of the town of Price, Utah, then turns west-northwest and follows U.S. Hwy. 6 west to U.S. Hwy. 89, where it turns south and continues in a straight line toward the town of Fountain Green. From there, it turns west to the town of Nephi, then north to terminate at the planned Clover substation near Mona, Utah.

In addition to the line and substations, the project also would include two series compensation stations, about 200 acres in size and a distance of approximately 400 miles, at two separate points between the planned substations to improve transport capacity and efficiency of the transmission line.

The 500-kV project, proposed by PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power, will increase capacity and provide system redundancy, transporting up to 1,500 MW of renewable and thermally generated power. The project is expected to cost approximately $1.2bn and enter service in 2020.

While the preliminary routes are available for review, the agency will not be accepting comments until they are published in the draft environmental impact statements on the projects. The draft EIS for B2H is expected in January 2014, while the draft EIS for Gateway South is scheduled to be released in February 2014.

NEPA requires that public comment periods be at least 45 days long. The public comment period for the draft EIS for Gateway South will be at least 60 days from its publication, the spokesperson said. The public comment period for B2H will be 90 days, according to the newsletter.

“The main reason we put the preliminary preferred route at this time is because there are other projects that are a little ahead of this one,” the spokesperson said. “We wanted to give the public the opportunity to look at this map at the same time they’re looking at other transmission projects to be able to contrast and compare what they’re looking at while they’re making comments on, for example, the TransWest Express project.”

The BLM and cooperating agencies are analyzing the preliminary agency preferred route and alternative routes, and will document the potential effects of the project as well as a range of reasonable alternatives that may help avoid, minimize or mitigate for these impacts in the draft EIS.

Idaho Power is a subsidiary of IDACORP (NYSE:IDA).