The Bonneville Power Administration may sell access to a new 1,600-megawatt West Coast transmission line it wants to build.

Under a proposal unveiled Thursday, BPA would let Northwest investor-owned utilities and public generating companies buy up to 725 megawatts of access in the line to California.The Portland-based public power agency already has three transmission links with California, two alternating-current lines and a direct-current line. It is planning to build a third AC line.

Thomas Blankenship, BPA's Boise district manager, said several congressmen have asked the agency to explore access sales because they could be used to reduce the cost of BPA's involvement in the line.

If the line is constructed, BPA's share would be $204 million of the projected $231 million price tag. Sale of 725 megawatts of access could raise more than $180 million.

Blankenship said there already is strong interest in the proposal, which must go through a review process and be approved by BPA Administrator Jim Jura.

Idaho Power Co. is considering BPA's proposal, said Executive Vice President Joe Marshall, but it also is considering proposals to build its own line to the Southwest and to buy access from Utah Power & Light Co.

"We will be involved in following along with BPA," Marshall said. "But if our own line can get us there at a cheaper price, then that's the way we'll go."

Idaho Power will probably tell BPA in March whether it is interested in negotiating a contract, he said.

Larry Falkner, Western Power Inc. vice president, said his company was aware of the proposal, but is not negotiating with BPA. Western Power is attempting to develop electric power at several locations in Idaho and also wants to market the power in the Southwest.

BPA officials said utilities buying access would have to pay for new and existing facilities necessary to transmit their power. Their rights would extend through 2016.

The agency would retain ownership of the facilities and would control construction and operation of the project.