After years of controversy, a final route for the massive Gateway West
transmission line has been given the green light by the U.S. Interior Department.
The power line will stretch nearly 1,000 miles from central Wyoming to southwest Idaho, running on a combination of public and private land—prompting pushback from farmers and other property owners.
According to the Twin Falls Times-News
, Bureau of Land Management approved construction on eight segments along the route, including through a swath of private land in Cassia County. Two segments east of Jerome and northwest of Murphy remain to be secured and will go through a public review period due to their proximity to the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Potential impacts to sage grouse habitat has also been a longtime sticking point for the project
reports that about 40 landowners in Cassia County will be directly affected by the route, along with dozens of farming partners. And even though federal regulators have approved 80 percent of the project's route, the Idaho State Journal
reports that regional landowners aren't ready to give up their opposition, calling for affected counties to band together and fight the decision as far as they can take it.
Construction on the transmission line is expected to begin
in 2016, with line service scheduled to start in phases between 2019-2023.
Construction will include 180-foot towers, each of which require 2,500-square-foot bases. "That makes for quite a hassle when farmers rely on center pivots for irrigating, crop dusting from airplanes and other chemical treatments on their crops," wrote Idaho Falls-based EastIdahoNews.com
The 1,500-megawatt line has been in the works since 2007, when Rocky Mountain Power submitted the project to federal environmental permitting. A joint project between Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, it will begin at the Windstar substation near Glenrock, Wyo., and terminate at the Hemingway substation near Melba.
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter hailed the decision:
"This federal process has gone on too long, and it continues to be fraught with uncertainty and confusion. This week’s announcement raises at least as many questions as it answers. I’ve made no secret about my position—we need Gateway West. I am committed to ensuring that Idaho voices are heard on this issue, including those of our counties and private property owners. As I expressed again to Secretary Jewell in Washington last month, my collaborative sage-grouse plan establishes a model for the kind of approach that’s needed."
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