BLM eyeing final EIS in August for 500-kV Boardman to Hemingway project

A final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line is expected to be issued late this summer, likely in August, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) told TransmissionHub March 14.

Late in 2015, BLM said that a final EIS for the 500-kV project was expected in early 2016. The draft EIS for the project was issued in December 2014.

The BLM spokesperson did not provide a reason for the revised time frame for the final EIS.

An Idaho Power spokesperson told TransmissionHub on March 17 that the most current cost estimate for the project is $1bn to $1.2bn.

The Boardman to Hemingway project is being developed as a single-circuit transmission line that would extend about 305 miles, depending on the route taken, from the Longhorn substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho. The line is designed to cross federal, state and private land in five counties in Oregon and one county in Idaho, with about 33% of the land that it would cross administered by federal agencies.

The Idaho Power spokesperson said that the project’s in-service date is 2022 or later.

BLM is coordinating with agencies on an agency-preferred route as part of the National Environmental Policy Act review for the project. In December 2015, BLM revised the previously identified environmentally preferred alternative route for the project at some locations.

That revision did not delay the timing of the final EIS, the BLM spokesperson said.

“The EIS process continues to move forward and was unaffected” by the change in the environmentally preferred alternative route, he said.

Idaho Power is developing the transmission line in conjunction with PacifiCorp and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) as possible partners, with Idaho Power leading the project’s permitting process.  

When BLM issued the revisions for the environmentally preferred route, a spokesperson for Idaho Power noted that the route differs from Idaho Power’s proposed route in a number of areas.

On March 7, Idaho Power issued a statement to interested parties along the proposed route that the utility is looking forward to reaching major milestones for the project in 2016.

“The federal permitting process is in the home stretch,” with a final EIS from BLM and a potential record of decision this year, Idaho Power said in the statement, which was provided to TransmissionHub.

“Idaho Power will finalize its application for Oregon’s facility siting process after the momentous BLM events,” the utility said.

The need for the project is still strong, Idaho Power said, adding that it would help provide low-cost energy to utility customers in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon, interconnecting with existing transmission facilities owned by BPA and PacifiCorp, “allowing greater amounts of electricity to move throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

The Boardman to Hemingway project also would allow Idaho Power to serve its growing load without building a carbon-emitting resource, the utility said in the statement.

The article was amended at 11 a.m., EST, on Friday, March 18, 2016, to include additional comments from an Idaho Power spokesperson on the project’s cost, in-service date and proposed route.