IDACORP‘s (NYSE:IDA) Idaho Power on May 1 told the Public Utility Commission of Oregon that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) record of decision (ROD) released last November regarding the Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) project triggered the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of Navy decision activities on the project, with the USFS and Navy predicting that they will issue their decisions later this year.
As TransmissionHub reported, the ROD allows the BLM to grant right of way (ROW) to Idaho Power for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the project on BLM-administered land, according to the project’s website.
As noted in the ROD, the BLM’s approval will take the form of a 30-year ROW grant. The BLM will also issue a temporary – that is, short-term – ROW grant for areas to be used only during construction for a period of 10 years. Activities associated with completion of the notice to proceed (NTP) requirements for construction of the project must begin within five years after the effective date of the ROW, the ROD said.
The approved route is the agency preferred alternative identified in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Proposed Land-use Plan Amendments, the site noted.
As noted in Idaho Power’s “1st Quarter 2018 Transmission Updates” report, Idaho Power and PacifiCorp (referred to as the companies), as well as the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), jointly propose to design, build, operate, and maintain the new approximately 300-mile, 500-kV, single-circuit electric transmission line from the proposed Longhorn substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho.
In connection with the Navy decision, Idaho Power said that its project team continues to work with the Navy and BPA on the details for removal of BPA’s 69-kV line from the Navy’s Bombing Range to clear the ROW for B2H.
Idaho Power also said that its project team continues to coordinate with NextEra Wind Energy Inc., and both electrical co-ops in the Bombing Range area regarding the new line for a wind project, which is expected to share a corridor with the B2H project.
Regarding the Oregon permitting process, Idaho Power said that the next milestone for the project is the application completeness determination by the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), which is expected after ODOE has reviewed and addressed all agency comments and requests for additional information. The completeness determination is projected to occur in 2Q18, Idaho Power said, adding that once ODOE deems the permitting application complete, ODOE will schedule public informational meetings in each of the five Oregon counties directly impacted by the project.
Following those meetings, the focus will shift to ODOE’s preparation and issuance of a draft proposed order, Idaho Power said.
The company also discussed the Gateway West transmission project, noting that the BLM in November 2013 released its ROD for Segments 1 through 7 and 10 of that project. The BLM postponed a decision on the remaining segments – Segment 8 (Midpoint to Hemingway) and Segment 9 (Cedar Hill substation to Hemingway) – to resolve routing in the affected areas, Idaho Power said.
The BLM in January 2017 released its ROD for the remaining segments, and that decision was appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) by certain challengers, the company said. The BLM in April 2017 requested that the IBLA remand the decision back to the BLM in light of the State of Idaho’s opposition to the BLM-selected route, and because the BLM Idaho state director concluded that it was in the best interest to do so, the company said. The IBLA on April 18, 2017, granted the BLM’s request and remanded the ROD for Segments 8 and 9 back to the BLM for further consideration, Idaho Power noted.
The company also noted that in May 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, which incorporated by reference the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area Boundary Modification Act. That Act directed the Secretary of Interior to issue an ROW for the portions of the companies’ preferred routes for Segments 8 and 9 that are located within the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA), Idaho Power said.
The BLM last August issued a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to reconsider its January 2017 decision, the company said, adding that the primary purpose of the EA is to solicit public comments and identify issues associated with such reconsideration, including addressing the ROWs needed to cross BLM lands outside of the NCA, and the potential amendment of several resource management plans and management framework plans in the project area.
The BLM last November issued its draft EA for public review and comment, and on Jan. 5, it issued its final EA, along with a finding of no new significant impact (FONNSI), which began a 30-day period for protesting the proposed resource management plan amendments, Idaho Power said.
The company noted that the significance of the FONNSI is that the BLM concluded that it does not need to complete an additional or supplemental environmental impact statement before making a decision on Segments 8 and 9.
The Department of Interior Assistant Secretary of Lands and Minerals on March 30 signed the decision record for Segments 8 and 9, which was published in the Federal Register on April 26, Idaho Power said. That decision record is the final federal decision milestone for the entire Gateway West project, the company said, adding that the BLM is working on the new ROW grant for Segments 8 and 9, which should be completed and executed in the near future.