By Mark Barnes
The Bureau of Land Management has issued the final draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Gateway West Transmission Line and has made no changes to the previous plan.
The BLM has continued to support choosing the preferred alternate lines through the city limits of Kuna and Melba rather than through the Snake River Birds of Prey, the original proposed route. Northern Owyhee County has also remained chosen as the southern route of the power lines that begin in Wyoming and reach across southern Idaho ending at the Hemingway substation near Melba.
According the BLM, the Gateway West project would strengthen the Western power grid to meet the projected growth in electricity through construction of over 1,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines. It would add from 1,500 to 3,000 megawatts of transmission capacity.
While controversy continues across one thousand miles with some communities such as Kuna and Melba protesting the primary choice of the lines going through those city’s city limits, the BLM is now considering
a phased approach to final decisions. This would allow portions of the power line project to begin while decisions are hashed out on other segments of the route.
As part of the latest release of the EIS, a series of open houses are scheduled for the public to review the routes, ask questions and give final comments on the
project during a 60-day comment period.
“I know the BLM is still looking for feedback and we’re doing everything we can to get people to comment,” said Melba Mayor Doug Sturges. “We’ve been asked to look through our city code and ordinances to find conflict resulting in their plans so that we can avoid these lines affecting people’s property.”
Kuna’s Mayor Greg Nelson said, “We are gearing up to again fight the alignment coming though Kuna instead of the Birds of Prey area. Hopefully we can get it put back where it belongs.”
Kuna City Councilman Richard Cardoza said, “I believe the southern alternate route that the BLM has been looking at would be in the best interest of the cities along the route of the transmission line. To bring the line through the south side of the city would be unacceptable to the citizens of Kuna. There are presently lines running through the BLM and there is no reason that this line could not also be allowed to run through the valley in the alignment of the other lines. I’m sure the line would not be a hindrance to the birds of prey as the poles could be installed as to protect the birds and their flights.”
“I appreciate the BLM allowing public testimony on this subject,” continued Cardoza, “but most of the meetings that I have attended the public is against the line coming through the cities. Maybe it’s time for the Federal Government to listen to the people as what is to be done within the Great State of Idaho.”
Kuna Councilman Joe Stear added, “When Kuna hosted capital for a day, this issue was discussed at great length. It was noted that the BLM representatives at that meeting were not the driving force behind the BLM preferred route and were in fact in favor of the alternate route through the Snake River Birds of Prey. It seems as though the BLM heads in Washington D.C. are the ones that keep changing it back to run through Kuna’s southern edge. Our Governor stated that he was opposed to the BLM route. Kuna is trying to make our area more attractive to potential business and growth, but this line encroaching on our landscape will do the opposite. People who live in the immediately affected areas want no part of it and it just makes more sense to go through the Federally owned lands. We need to be ready to fight this proposal.”
“The BLM is having open houses and I encourage people to go see what they are planning and make their voices heard,” said Melba Mayor Doug Sturges. “I would hope that the BLM and decision makers do not supersede the desire of the citizens and make the transmission lines go through private property.”
The Idaho Congressional Delegation issued a press release on Tuesday, April 30, calling for “strong public input” for the public comment period for the final EIS on the Gateway West project.
The Idaho Congressional Delegation issued a press release on Tuesday, April 30, calling for “strong public input” for the public comment period for the final EIS on the Gateway West project. “A broad group of Idahoans – people most affected by the Gateway West power lines – worked in good faith and underwent a strenuous process to develop a route that everyone could agree on only to have their ef orts disregarded by the BLM,” noted Crapo, Risch, Simpson and Labrador. “We encourage Idahoans to let the agency know how they feel about this new plan through the many public hearings scheduled throughout Idaho.”