Idaho Power on Aug. 8 filed with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon its 2Q18 transmission update report regarding the Energy Gateway West (Gateway West) and Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) transmission projects.
The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, has finished the right of way (ROW) grant for Segments 8 and 9 of the Gateway West, which is ready to be executed, the company said.
As noted in the filing, the BLM in November 2013 released its record of decision (ROD) for Segments 1 through 7 and 10 of the Gateway West 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. Because of the importance of Segments 8 and 9 to the project, and to Idaho Power’s interest in the project, no additional permitting – state or local – regulatory activities, or other events were being pursued by Idaho Power until the BLM provided its decision on the remaining segments, the company added.
The BLM in January 2017 released its ROD for the remaining segments, and that decision was then appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) by certain challengers, Idaho Power 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. Idaho Power added 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.
The company noted that President Donald Trump in May 2017 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 (Modification Act). The Modification Act directed the Secretary of Interior to issue a right of way (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).
The “companies” refers to PacifiCorp and Idaho Power, which jointly developed the Energy Gateway West transmission project, the filing noted.
Idaho Power added that the BLM in August 2017 issued a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to reconsider its January 2017 decision, and in November 2017, the BLM issued its draft EA for public review and comment. The BLM on Jan. 5 issued its final EA along with a finding of no new significant impact (FONNSI), beginning a 30-day period for protesting the proposed resource management plan amendments. Idaho Power added that the significance of the FONNSI is that BLM concluded it does not need to complete an additional or supplemental EIS before making a decision on Segments 8 and 9.
Discussing the Boardman to Hemingway project, Idaho Power noted that it, PacifiCorp and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) jointly propose to design, build, operate, and maintain the new, approximately 300-mile, 500-kV single-circuit line from the proposed Longhorn substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho. Idaho Power noted that it is leading the permitting process for the project.
The permitting phase of B2H is subject to federal review and approval by BLM, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Department of the Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers, and certain other federal agencies. BLM, as the lead federal agency on the NEPA review, issued its final EIS for the project in November 2016, Idaho Power added.
For the state of Oregon permitting process, electronic copies of the amended preliminary application were submitted to the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) and other reviewing agencies in June 2017.
Idaho Power also said that the BLM in November 2017 released its ROD for the B2H project, authorizing the BLM to grant an ROW to Idaho Power for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the project on BLM-administered land. The USFS and Navy will issue their own separate decisions regarding ROWs across lands under their relative jurisdictions.
The commission in May issued an order acknowledging Idaho Power’s 2017 integrated resource plan’s action items to conduct ongoing permitting, planning studies, and regulatory filings for the B2H line, as well as to conduct preliminary construction activities, acquire long-lead materials, and build the project, Idaho Power added.
The BLM’s ROD triggered USFS, the Navy, and BPA’s decision activities, the company said, adding that for the Navy permitting process, the Navy has said that the ROD will be issued in late 2018, with an easement to be issued in 2019. BPA expects to issue an ROD in early 2019 for the removal of existing BPA infrastructure, a 69-kV line from the Navy’s Bombing Range, to clear the ROW for B2H. Idaho Power added that the USFS in June issued its draft ROD, which triggered a 45-day objection/comment period; the final USFS ROD is expected to be issued in the fall.
With respect to the Oregon permitting process, the next milestone is the application completeness determination by ODOE, which is expected after ODOE has reviewed and addressed all agency comments and requests for additional information. The company added that the completeness determination is projected to occur this month.
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. Idaho Power added that following those meetings, the focus will shift to ODOE’s preparation and issuance of a draft proposed order.
The company also said that it continues to meet with landowners to micro-site the project route and prepare for a site certificate amendment in the future.