Idaho Power on April 30 filed with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon its 1Q19 Transmission Update regarding the Gateway West and Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) transmission projects, noting, for instance, that geotechnical sub-surface activities on the B2H project are expected to begin in 2020.
As noted in the filing, Idaho Power and PacifiCorp – which jointly developed the projects – along with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) propose to design, build, operate, and maintain the new, approximately 300-mile, 500-kV, single-circuit B2H line from the proposed Longhorn substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho. Idaho Power said that it is leading the permitting process for the B2H project.
The permitting phase of the B2H project is subject to federal review and approval by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Department of the Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal agencies, Idaho Power said.
The BLM in November 2016 issued its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project, the company said, adding that the BLM in November 2017 released its ROD for the B2H project, authorizing the BLM to grant a right of way (ROW) to Idaho Power for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the B2H project on BLM-administered land.
The commission in May 2018 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 line, as well as to conduct preliminary construction activities, acquire long-lead materials, and build the B2H project.
Discussing 1Q19 project developments, Idaho Power said that the BLM’s ROD triggered USFS, the Navy, and BPA decision activities. The company noted that the Navy expects to issue its ROD and execute an easement agreement this year. Idaho Power also said that the BPA expects to issue an ROD this year for the removal of existing BPA infrastructure, a 69-kV line from the Navy’s bombing range, to clear the ROW for the B2H project. The company said that the USFS issued its final ROD in November 2018, and delivered a draft easement agreement to Idaho Power on April 12.
The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) has been focused on preparing the draft proposed order (DPO) for the B2H project, Idaho Power said, adding that the DPO provides ODOE’s recommendation on whether to issue a site certificate for construction in Oregon. Idaho Power said that it expects ODOE to issue the DPO this month and to hold DPO public hearings in June.
Approval of a geotechnical plan of development (POD) and a notice to proceed from the BLM are required prior to taking core samples along the project route to inform the final design of the project, Idaho Power said, adding that it submitted last fall a draft geotechnical POD to the BLM for review and approval. The BLM’s draft POD was out for agency review with comments due back last month, Idaho Power said, noting that it expects to finalize the geotechnical POD in the next few month and anticipates the BLM to issue a notice to proceed in the fall.
The company said that it has continued to meet with landowners to micro-site the project route and prepare for an ODOE site certificate amendment in the future.
Of the Gateway West project, Idaho Power said that there were no notable developments in 1Q19.
As noted in the filing, the BLM in November 2013 released its ROD for Segments 1 through 7 and 10 of the project. The company noted that 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 BLM released its ROD for the remaining segments in January 2017, Idaho Power said, adding that that decision was 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. Idaho Power added 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.
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 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 added that the BLM in August 2017 issued a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to reconsider its January 2017 decision.
The BLM issued its draft EA for public review and comment in November 2017, and in January 2018, it 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 the BLM concluded that it does not need to complete an additional or supplemental EIS before making a decision on Segments 8 and 9.
As noted on the Gateway West website, the project would build and operate about 1,000 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines between the Windstar substation near Glenrock, Wyo., and the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho. The project would include about 150 miles of 230-kV lines in Wyoming and about 850 miles of 500-kV lines in Wyoming and Idaho, the site noted.