Idaho Power on Oct. 29 filed with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon its 3Q18 transmission update regarding the Energy Gateway West transmission project and the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line Project (B2H).
As noted in the filing, the Bureau of Land Management (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.
The company added that 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. 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 also noted that the IBLA in April 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 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. That 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 Idaho Power and PacifiCorp, which have jointly developed the Energy Gateway West project.
Idaho Power also said in its filing that the BLM in August 2017 issued a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to reconsider its Jan. 19, 2017 decision. 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, Idaho Power said.
The BLM in November 2017 issued its draft EA for public review and comment, the company said, adding that in January, the BLM 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 that it does not need to complete an additional or supplemental environmental impact statement before making a decision on Segments 8 and 9.
Discussing 3Q18 project developments, the company said that BLM finished the ROW grant for Segments 8 and 9 and an ROW grant agreement signing ceremony was held in August that included Idaho State BLM, Idaho Power, Rocky Mountain Power/PacifiCorp, and representatives from the Idaho governor’s office.
Of the B2H project, Idaho Power noted that the companies and 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.
The permitting phase of the project 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. Idaho Power added that BLM, as the lead federal agency on the National Environmental Policy Act review, issued its final environmental impact statement for the project in November 2016.
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.
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 B2H project on BLM-administered land, Idaho Power added.
The commission in May issued an order that acknowledged Idaho Power’s 2017 integrated resource plan’s action items to conduct ongoing permitting, planning studies, and regulatory filings for the B2H transmission line, as well as to conduct preliminary construction activities, acquire long-lead materials, and build the B2H project, the company said.
Of 3Q18 project developments, Idaho Power noted that the BLM’s ROD triggered USFS, the Navy, and BPA’s decision activities. For the Navy permitting process, the Navy is planning to issue an ROD in late 2018, with an easement to be issued in 2019. The company added that 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. The USFS plans to issue its final ROD in 4Q18 and an easement agreement in early 2019.
Idaho Power added that with respect to the Oregon permitting process, the most recent major milestone was the application completeness determination by ODOE, which occurred in September. Public informational meetings were held in October in each of the five Oregon counties directly impacted by the project. The company added that ODOE’s focus is now on preparing and issuing a draft proposed order, which is expected by the end of 1Q19.
The draft proposed order provides ODOE’s recommendation on whether to issue a site certificate for construction in Oregon, Idaho Power said, adding that it continues to meet with reviewing agencies and other stakeholders to facilitate the ODOE application process.
The company said that it continues to meet with landowners to micro-site the project route and prepare for a site certificate amendment in the future.