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Idaho and Wyoming governors praise decision to review alternative Gateway West routes

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal praised in separate press releases July 16 a decision by electric utilities and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to look at alternative routes for the Gateway West transmission project proposed by PacifiCorp and Idaho Power Co. The decision came in response to mounting concerns from constituents.

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal praised in separate press releases July 16 a decision by electric utilities and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to look at alternative routes for the Gateway West transmission project proposed by PacifiCorp and Idaho Power Co.

The decision came in response to mounting concerns from constituents.

"It seems that the BLM and Rocky Mountain Power not only listened, but really heard the concerns that were mounting with the Gateway West Project," Freudenthal said of the decision by the U.S. Interior Department's bureau and the PacifiCorp division that serves Wyoming. "By taking this decisive action, which will cost Rocky Mountain Power quite a bit more money and the BLM significantly more staff time, they have taken a step in restoring the public's trust not only with this particular project, but in the overall process."

The bureau issued a press release July 16 announcing a delay in the issuance of a draft environmental impact statement on the project while concerns about the proposed route continue to be addressed.

"Reasonable alternatives developed between now and September 04, 2009, will be analyzed in the Draft... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal praised in separate press releases July 16 a decision by electric utilities and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to look at alternative routes for the Gateway West transmission project proposed by PacifiCorp and Idaho Power Co.

The decision came in response to mounting concerns from constituents.

"It seems that the BLM and Rocky Mountain Power not only listened, but really heard the concerns that were mounting with the Gateway West Project," Freudenthal said of the decision by the U.S. Interior Department's bureau and the PacifiCorp division that serves Wyoming. "By taking this decisive action, which will cost Rocky Mountain Power quite a bit more money and the BLM significantly more staff time, they have taken a step in restoring the public's trust not only with this particular project, but in the overall process."

The bureau issued a press release July 16 announcing a delay in the issuance of a draft environmental impact statement on the project while concerns about the proposed route continue to be addressed.

"Reasonable alternatives developed between now and September 04, 2009, will be analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, now slated for release in spring 2010," the bureau said in the press release.

Additional meetings to finalize these alternatives will be arranged in local areas by Idaho Power, PacifiCorp, local governments and other groups, the bureau said.

The bureau earlier had tentatively scheduled the draft environmental impact statement for release in fall 2009. However, opponents to the suggested routes and those who wanted other alternatives contacted members of Congress, state and local government officials and, in some cases, they organized opposition to the project or at least parts of it.

As the Northern Laramie Range Alliance of 258 landowners and citizens in the Wyoming counties of Converse, Albany and Natrona said on its Web site, "Our numbers are growing rapidly as more and more citizens wake up to the potential adverse effect chaotic and uncontrolled energy and transmission development may have on their quality of life and land values."

In Idaho, Otter said the decision to extend the process showed a commitment to working closely with counties, citizens' groups and private property owners to address concerns. But he indicated that the project should be built.

"There's no doubt that we need more and better ways to get electricity from one place to another, especially here in Idaho," Otter said. "But that can't mean shortchanging private property rights or engaging in unnecessary conflicts. This is a great opportunity to work collaboratively toward achieving a solution we all can live with.

"I'm encouraging the BLM, utilities and all the parties involved to review their options and work through the challenges as quickly and professionally as possible," Otter continued. "What we do with Gateway West will go a long way toward showing the federal government that we can resolve our own issues here in Idaho."

In neighboring Wyoming, Freudenthal said the National Environmental Policy Act process that provides for public input and involvement in transmission routing is working.

"People now know that their words matter, their efforts make a difference and their voices can lead to significant changes - especially if they come to the table with alternatives," he said. "People in this state usually don't come out for public meetings unless they have something important to say, and I thank BLM and Rocky Mountain Power for their willingness to work with folks and to not always paddle against the wave of public sentiment."

The Northern Laramie Range Alliance said aggressive outside interests are trying to industrialize pristine mountain country with transmission lines and associated wind power projects.

"Rocky Mountain Power is proposing an unnecessary 'greenfield' transmission corridor - parallel to an existing corridor a few miles to the west - between Glenrock and Medicine Bow," the group said. "Most of the rest of Gateway West follows a single corridor, and most of it would use existing transmission lines."

Idaho Power, an IDACORP Inc. subsidiary, and PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., want to build and operate 230-kV and 500-kV transmission lines from the proposed Windstar substation near the Dave Johnston Power Plant in Glenrock, Wyo., to the proposed Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho. The 1,150-mile project across southern Wyoming and southern Idaho would cross about 500 miles of public land managed by the bureau.

The two utility companies applied to the bureau and to the U.S. Forest Service for right-of-way grants to construct, operate and maintain the transmission lines.

Freudenthal urged constituents to continue to participate. "Transmission is a critical piece of the puzzle that must be developed in concert with renewable energy projects in Wyoming, but it is important that we do it right, so that the affected communities and landowners are comfortable with the outcome."

The bureau said it will continue to discuss and develop potential alternative routes in both states in response to public input and coordination with state, tribal and county governments. The agency said it has been working closely with communities and landowners for seven months and will continue to do so.

"The BLM has been listening to these suggestions. We want to ensure communities and groups have full opportunity to share their ideas," said Wyoming State Director Don Simpson, the bureau's decision maker for the project, in the agency press release. "This effort is consistent with BLM's responsibility under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to coordinate with state and local governments."

Related documents:

"Governor Supports BLM's Response to Transmission Project Concerns"
presented on 7/16/2009

 "Governor Applauds Delaying Draft EIS on Gateway West"
presented on 7/16/2009

"BLM Continues to Collect Input on Route Alternatives for the Gateway West Transmission Line Project"
presented on 7/16/2009


Source: http://www.snl.com/Interact...

JUL 16 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/21245-idaho-and-wyoming-governors-praise-decision-to-review-alternative-gateway-west-routes
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