Public hearings to be held in September for Basin Electric transmission project

The North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) on July 30 set dates for three public hearings to discuss the Antelope Valley Station to Neset transmission project proposed by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

The three-member commission decided to hold hearings Sept. 4, 5 and 12 in the cities of Killdeer, Tioga and Willison in North Dakota to discuss the utility’s plans for the 190-mile, 345-kV project.

“They’ll hold the public meetings on the project, take input from the public, then make a decision on the line after that,” a spokesperson for Basin Electric told TransmissionHub July 31.

Following the hearings, PSC staff and company representatives will work together on a draft order, which must then be approved by the full commission.

“Ultimately, we could have that [proposed order] within a few months after the hearings, if eveything goes perfectly,” PSC Commissioner Julie Fedorchak told TransmissionHub.

The state’s process is separate from the federal NEPA process, which required the preparation of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), the spokesperson said.

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), and the U.S. Forest Service jointly prepared the draft EIS for the project, which was issued on Dec. 7, 2012. The public comment period for the draft EIS ended on Jan. 22.

The draft EIS will play a vital role in financing the $300m project.

“We will be applying to the Rural Utilities Service for financing,” the spokesperson said. “As part of that, an environmental impact statement has to be written as part of that project.”

The most recent cost estimate of $300m represents an increase from the original estimate of $150m, but the increase was not completely unexpected, according to the company.

“With projects like this, from the time you look at it [initially] until you really get into putting everything together, costs are going to shift,” the spokesperson said. “Obviously, they did here.”

If approved, the project would begin at Basin Electric’s Antelope Valley station near Beulah, N.D., and run northwest, connecting to substations in Grassy Butte and Williston before terminating at the Neset substation near Tioga, touching six counties in western North Dakota.

According to TransmissionHub data, the project is designed to meet increased demand in the region, which includes demand stemming from increasing activity in the Bakken shale formation. In addition, the line will further improve system stability and reliability in the area. 

Basin Electric will construct, own and operate the project, which will involve building 190 miles of new 345-kV single pole transmission line, two new substations, modifications at four substations, a 345-kV switchyard and other construction activities.

Basin Electric and project partner Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) expect to start construction in 2014 and to have the project in operation in 2016.