BPA seeks comments on Oregon transmission improvement project

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is accepting public comments through Dec. 31 on its proposal to construct a new substation and improve two existing transmission lines in Morrow, Gilliam, and Umatilla counties in Oregon.

BPA proposes constructing the new 230/115-kV Morrow Flat substation approximately 1.5 miles east of Boardman, Ore. The 17.5-acre substation would be located in an area zoned for industry adjacent to the existing BPA transmission lines.

“The project would help BPA serve increased energy demand from existing development, food processing plants, and new data centers in the Boardman area,” a BPA spokesperson told TransmissionHub Dec. 9.

The agency’s McNary-Boardman and McNary-Jones Canyon 230-kV transmission lines would be connected to the proposed substation. Line improvements would include the addition of overhead protective groundwire one mile on either side of the substation and reconstruction of 18 lattice-steel transmission towers to ensure that proper clearance is maintained between the conductor and the surrounding terrain, BPA said on its project website.

In addition, work may include changes to some insulators that connect the conductors to the towers, reconstruction of steel towers or grading of the ground under the line in some areas.

To access the various facilities, BPA may also need to improve existing access roads or acquire rights to develop new access roads to transmission line towers that are presently difficult to reach.

BPA held a public open house Dec. 4 in Boardman, Ore., and is currently reviewing the potential environmental impacts of the project. In addition, BPA personnel will conduct engineering and environmental surveys through the spring of 2014. BPA plans to complete the environmental analysis by summer of 2014.

At present, the agency predicts the analysis will likely be documented in a “categorical exclusion,” which is defined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as “a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment … and … for which, therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.”

The agency will accept written comment through its website and through U.S. mail. The deadline for submitting comments is Dec. 31.