BLM holding meetings on draft supplemental EIS for Gateway West

Idaho Power and its partner on the Gateway West transmission project, Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), are preparing comments on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for two segments of the project, an Idaho Power spokesperson told TransmissionHub April 13.

Idaho Power is pleased that BLM issued the draft SEIS for the two segments, which is “a critical milestone in the project, and continues its forward momentum,” the spokesperson said.

The Gateway West project, proposed jointly by RMP and Idaho Power in 2007, would extend from the Windstar substation near Glenrock, Wyo., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho. It would involve about 200 miles of 230-kV lines in Wyoming, and 800 miles of 500-kV lines in both Wyoming and Idaho.

The project is scheduled for line segments to be completed in phases between 2019 and 2024, beginning in Wyoming and moving west, according to the utilities’ joint website for the project.

Idaho Power’s need for Gateway West is to alleviate transmission congestion for moving power across southern Idaho, primarily from east to west, the spokesperson said.

BLM on March 30 scheduled a public meeting in Hagerman, Idaho, to gather comments on the draft SEIS, and four additional meetings were scheduled when BLM issued the draft SEIS earlier in March.

The Hagerman, Idaho, meeting will be held on April 18, followed by two meetings to be held in Boise, Idaho, and in Kuna, Idaho, on April 19. Also, a meeting in Twin Falls, Idaho, will be held on April 20, and a meeting will be held in Murphy, Idaho, on April 21, BLM said in a March 30 notice.

BLM said it is taking comments on the draft SEIS through June 9.

A final SEIS and a record of decision (ROD) on the two segments is expected to be issued by the end of 2016, a BLM spokesperson told TransmissionHub April 13. The BLM will determine in the ROD whether to authorize construction of the final two segments of the Gateway West project, the BLM spokesperson said.

The draft SEIS was issued March 11, more than two years after BLM issued an ROD approving eight of the 10 segments of the nearly 1,000-mile Gateway West project. The draft SEIS covers two segments in southwest Idaho – segments eight and nine, between a substation near American Falls, Idaho, and a substation southeast of Twin Falls – that were deferred in the ROD for further review.

Those two segments, which would each span more than 125 miles, involve additional mitigation measures for the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, BLM noted in a March 14 statement.

BLM examined seven pairs of possible route combinations in the draft SEIS for the two segments, all of which would have some impact on the conservation area by crossing portions of the area. The draft SEIS analyzes the mitigation plan proposed by Idaho Power and RMP for the area and presents BLM’s framework for mitigation, including avoidance, minimization, and compensation measures that would be necessary under each alternative, BLM said.

The agency weighed the impact of the utilities’ revised proposal for the area against recent Greater sage-grouse land-use planning decisions and BLM policies related to National Conservation Areas, BLM said.

The draft SEIS identifies Alternative 2 and Alternative 5 as co-preferred alternatives for purposes of public review and comment, BLM said. Identification of those alternatives does not represent a final agency decision, BLM noted.

Alternative 2 would require 12 amendments to six current BLM land use plans, while Alternative 5 would require five amendments to three current BLM land use plans.

When asked about the cost of the project, the Idaho Power spokesperson said it is hard to provide a cost estimate when the final route is not known, but said it would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Idaho Power is a subsidiary of IDACORP (NYSE:IDA). RMP is part of PacifiCorp, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy.