Idaho governor wants answers about electricity line decision

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23 2012 10:30 p.m. MDT

BOISE — Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has asked Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to send federal officials to Idaho to explain the federal Bureau of Land Management's decision for a 1,100-mile high-voltage transmission line route that Otter says disregards collaborative efforts in Idaho on route selection.

The Idaho Statesman reports that Otter wrote Salazar on Oct. 10 with concerns about the proposed Gateway West transmission line. Otter said the preferred alternative selected by the BLM and released earlier this month tossed out routes through the Morley Nelson Birds of Prey Conservation Area south of Kuna and instead selected routes through private land.

"Ultimately, BLM headquarters chose to disregard these collaborative efforts and selected preferred alternative routes that do not have the support of the state, local communities, or state and local staff," Otter wrote. "In so doing, BLM headquarters ignored two years of collaborative effort and its own justification for not including a designated preferred alternative in the draft EIS."

BLM officials said the law establishing the Birds of Prey area requires any major action to improve raptor habitat, and the power line wouldn't do that.

The project is proposed by Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power Co. and stretches from Glenrock, Wyo., to Murphy, Idaho, southwest of Boise and is projected to upgrade the distribution of electricity in both states.

Early routes were opposed and criticized by residents, farmers and government officials worried about the line being built on private land.

The BLM's preferred option shows the line will cross about 25 miles of public land and 100 miles of private land in Cassia County, one early hotbed of opposition.

The BLM still could make changes before it finishes its environmental impact statement later this year, but every mile adds $1.5 million to $2.5 million to the utilities' costs of construction, state officials said. Those extra costs are then passed on through consumer rates.

The BLM is taking public comments on the preferred route.

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