by Larry Meyer
ONTARIO — The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are preparing to work on a draft of an environmental impact statement to evaluate the Boardman to Hemingway 500-kilovolt transmission line project, and has released a report on the issues which will be discussed in the EIS, including purpose and need, transmission line route alternatives and resource inventory, impacts and mitigation.
Idaho Power Company is proposing to build the line between the existing Hemingway Substation, situated in Owyhee County near Melba, Idaho, and planned substation near Boardman, Ore., in Morrow County. The line would be about 300 miles long and would cross private, federal and state lands in six counties in Oregon and Idaho, with about 93 miles of the land the line will cross administered by federal agencies. Idaho Power’s right-of-way application to the BLM and USES initiated a EIS process.
This initial report, which is available online at www.boardmantohemingway.com, reviews the siting process up to now and the public comments garnered from a number of public meetings, referred to as public scoping.
The Environmental Impact Statement will explain the purpose and need to which the BLM, the lead agency, is responding, including the proposed action and what objectives are to be achieved by the action.
Under project description, the EIS will discuss such issues as the physical requirements for transmission line construction, maintenance and operation, plus technical feasibility and constructability of the project and alternative technologies.
The draft EIS will include a study and review of alternative routes. The route issue brought the original scoping process to a halt, while Idaho Power set up a community advisory process which proposed a revised route.
A resource inventory will address impacts on such issues as sage grouse, migratory birds, listed species, habitat fragmentation, farmland, cultural resources, aesthetics and economics.
Issues which will not be addressed, raised by the comments during the scoping period include the following:
— If energy conservation plans were implemented, this project would not be needed.
— Electrical power should be decentralized.
— Suspicion that more transmission lines will be placed in the right-of-way than stated.
Other issues not to be addressed include opposition or support for the project, use of solar energy, development of a wide-range sage-grouse conservation plan and who is going to bear the expense of the project.
The draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released in spring of 2012, followed by a 90-day public comment period, which will include public meetings.