Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gateway West, under the radar

Gateway West, coming under the radar near you. Check to see if you have private property under a proposed transmission line. (Click for a larger picture.)

Three stories: An article from the Owyhee Avalanche, and two from the Power County and Aberdeen Press, reporting on private property owners irate that the Gateway West line avoids BLM land. Doug Dockter, out there once again, making reassurances:

(1) Gateway West project may face its own resistance
Project unlikely to see community action groups in siting process April 1st

Despite the recent re-evaluation of the routing process brought to the table by Idaho Power Co. on its Boardman-to-Hemingway (B2H) 500kV transmission line, its sister project, the Gateway West 500kV line, does not seem to be inviting community and landowner involvement in its own siting.

The Gateway West Transmission Line Project is a joint project between Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power to build, operate and maintain approximately 1,150 miles of new 230kV and 500kV transmission lines across southern Wyoming and southern Idaho.

“We’re working with Rocky Mountain Power to determine if our schedule with the Gateway West Project is going to allow something like what we’ve done with Boardman-to-Hemingway,” Idaho Power project manager Doug Docktor said Wednesday. . .

“What we’ve been doing instead of the community action groups that we’re forming for B2H, is we’ve been meeting with groups of private property owners in areas they do have concerns with,” he said, “and listening to those concerns, and trying to come up with an alternate route that would address their concerns that would be palatable to them as well as the project. I anticipate that’s probably how we’re going to end up with Gateway West.

“We have had a lot of success on that (sort of negotiation). So far, they (property owners) seem to be pretty pleased with what we’ve worked out with them.”

The line, which will cross the breadth of southern Idaho, including farm-use lands in the southern portion of Owyhee County, has remained below-the-radar to some extent, overshadowed by the fight of hundreds of landowners in Malheur and Owyhee counties against the controversial routing of B2H.

That quiet may not last much longer, as residents in Murphy, Bruneau, Grand View and Oreana have begun to question the planned course of the line.

For landowners, time still exists to give input, and Docktor stressed that — while Gateway West is farther along in the planning process — routing flexibility still exists within, and possibly beyond, mapped corridors. However, the clock is ticking. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected in August, and the final EIS in June of 2010, roughly a year ahead of B2H. . .

Idaho Power has just created a new Web site specific to Gateway West, which can be accessed at

(2) Headway being made on proposed route for power transmission line
April 8th

Idaho Power Company is closer to striking a compromise with Rockland Valley farmers for the route of the Gateway West transmission line as it runs through the east end of the valley, according to Doug Dockter, Idaho Power project leader. But the route of the transmission line across the Snake River into the Borah Substation, southwest of American Falls, remains a point of contention.

The Gateway West project consists of 1,150 miles of new, high voltage transmission lines, running from Wyoming to western Idaho. Current lines are at their capacity, Dockter said, which requires the new lines. The transmission line is also facing opposition in farmland near Burley, and planned development around Parma and Kuna.

. . . Farmers in the Rockland Valley banded together to keep the line off their property as much as possible. Their ideal route would have run in the foothills east of Rockland entirely on BLM land. Dockter said that plan would not have been feasible because of the limited access to the area, but a plan that runs on BLM land and grazing land, avoiding strictly agricultural land, is a possibility. . .

Ryan Petersen, an attorney currently representing the coalition of farmers, said the farmers aren’t telling Idaho Power which route to use, but are suggesting the current route is not the best option for the community.

As a recognized utility, Idaho Power has the right to take the land for the project under state eminent domain laws. Idaho Power will avoid invoking their eminent domain rights, said Dockter. Idaho Power hasn’t used their eminent domain rights in 20 years, Dockter said, and is looking for viable compromises in the transmission line route.

Construction could begin in early 2011, Dockter said. A release provided to The Press by the group in opposition to the power line route, the Citizens for Responsible Development, is included separately this week as a letter to the editor.

(3) Landowners fight proposed route for transmission line
. . . Idaho Power officials said they have a responsibility to their customers to provide the route with the minimum amount of an attached rate increase, often the most direct route. . .
. . . The landowners, mostly farmers, object to the line going through their ground because of the impact power lines have on crop production. Even though the lines themselves take up a small amount of land, working around the power lines completely changes the process of farming, said many landowners at the meeting with Idaho Power. The power lines obstruct the way of sprinkler pivots, inhibiting farmers from watering their crops.
The lines also prevent crop dusting by airplane. . . past compensation for utilities crossing the land was inadequate for the problems associated with moving around them.
. . . Just because a high-voltage transmission line is going right through your business property is no reason to put up a fuss and deny Idaho Power's responsibility to its other customers for minimal rate increases. . .