BLM gives final green light to major Western power line

Source: Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Bureau of Land Management has approved the final routes for a 1,000-mile power line that connects Western states.

The agency announced that segments of the Gateway West Transmission Line Project on public lands in southwestern Idaho received the green light, hooking up to already authorized routes in southern Wyoming and eastern Idaho.

Gateway West is a 10-segment, 500-kilovolt transmission line that starts in Wyoming and ends in southwestern Idaho.

The Trump administration is touting the major initiative, which began during the Obama years, as a jobs creator and a boon to its “energy dominance” agenda.

“The Gateway West electric transmission line is an example of the President’s vision in action, and it will help power the American West for years to come, as America achieves energy dominance,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement.

A BLM press release said the project, created to help deliver more reliable energy to the West, will supply power to 975,000 homes and generate 3,100 jobs.

The agency will offer rights of way on public lands for segments 8 and 9 of the Gateway West project to Idaho Power Co. and Rocky Mountain Power Inc. and modify BLM land use plans accordingly.

“Authorizing the final segments of the project will make 7,191 acres of federal lands within the ROW [rights of way] available to transmit electric power generated from both traditional (i.e. coal-fired and natural gas-fired) generation facilities and renewable sources (i.e. wind generation facilities) in Wyoming and Idaho,” said an agency press release.

Idaho lawmakers and state officials fought to gain access to the project’s final two segments, which originally avoided a BLM-managed national conservation area for birds in Idaho (Greenwire, Aug. 28, 2017).

The fiscal 2017 omnibus package included language from Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) that mandated the final two sections of the power line through parts of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

That measure allows the power line to cross about 2,600 acres previously within the Birds of Prey NCA that will now be managed for multiple use.

BLM has been working on an environmental assessment of the two segments since last summer.

“This Idaho solution is good for the economy, conservation, and ratepayers who will benefit from lower rates and transmission reliability,” Simpson said today in a statement.