The Bureau of Land Management has finally released its preferred alternative for the 1,150-mile Gateway West transmission line that is planned to run from Glenrock Wyoming to Murphy.
This is the transmission project proposed by Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power than ran into an electrical storm of protest from southern Idaho counties because about half of the proposed route across southern Idaho was on private land. Farmers, especially in Cassia County, balked.
Initially so did Ada County and Kuna officials because the line was proposed to go just south through the city's impact area. But after talks the route apparently was moved through the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey area.
So the BLM’s preferred alternative map shows that the line will cross about 25 miles of public land and 100 miles of BLM in Cassia County, not a surprise.
And the original route near Kuna is back on the map as he preferred route. Kuna and county officials are not amused.The BLM said under the law that created the Birds of Prey area any development like a power line has to help raptors.
Since its analysis couldn't make that case it moved the line north into the area it knows will bring a lot of criticism.
The BLM still could make changes before it finishes its environmental impact statement later this year but every mile adds $1.5 million to $2.5 million to the utilities’ costs, state officials said. That goes right on to customers’ rates.
You can expect Cassia Countyand perhaps Ada to continue their fight but it will turn uphill as the route also had to avoid critical sage grouse habitat, limiting the options for the BLM and the utilities even more.
But in Idaho the county has the last word unless the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission steps in. Idaho doesn’t have an energy siting law so the state has little say in the matter.