Tribes turn down Gateway West route forcing BLM to shift south

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have vetoed running the Gateway West electric transmission line across the Fort Hall Indian reservation in eastern Idaho.

The tribe’s decision forced the Bureau of Land Management, which is conducting the environmental review of the proposed power line, to move the line south through Power County. The new preferred alternative, only out this week runs on 75 to 80 percent private land through the Rockland Valley and Neely areas.

For Power County the decision is especially bitter. It had proposed an alternative to Idaho Power’s initial proposal that the BLM had accepted in its draft environmental impact statement released this fall.

“They’re up in arms,” said Doug Balfour, a Pocatello attorney who heads a Power County Citizens Task Force. “They’re furious.”

Tribal chairman Nathan Small said in his letter tribal leaders decided the line was not in their members interests.

“The potential impacts to natural, cultural, aesthetic and socio-economic resources from a large transmission line are significant and would be extremely difficult to mitigate,” Small said in an Oct. 5 letter to the BLM.

Balfour said the new route will run right through farmers’ irrigation pivots and make crop dusting in the farmland too dangerous.

“What it means is agriculture as it developed can’t exist,” Balfour said.

He and county officials are trying to work out a new route that avoids as much private land as possible and protects sage grouse with some mitigation.

The changes don't effect the two routes across the Morley Nelson-Birds of Prey area that is controversial o this side of the state.