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Proposed Mont.-Idaho Power Line Under Review

by Dave Wilkins
Capital Press, October 4, 2009

Public meetings scheduled Oct. 13, 14 in Blackfoot, Aberdeen

Windmills and power lines operate near Wasco in Sherman County. The region's electricity grid will need to expand to handle all the new wind and other renewable energy projects being built across Oregon and the West. A proposed high-voltage transmission line stretching about 400 miles from Western Montana to south-central Idaho will be the subject of public information meetings this month.

North West Energy plans to build a 500-kilovolt electric transmission line from a proposed substation just south of Townsend, Mont., to an existing substation about 10 miles north of Jerome, Idaho.

The Mountain States Transmission Intertie Project will cross both private and federal lands, stretching anywhere from 360 to 430 miles, depending on the final route selected. The company hopes to complete the project around 2013.

Public meetings will be 6-8 p.m. Oct. 13 at the PBG Center, Blackfoot, Idaho; Oct. 14 at Aberdeen Elementary School, Aberdeen, Idaho; and Oct. 15 at the Montana Tech Library Auditorium in Butte, Mont.

North West Energy officials said the project will help strengthen the Western power grid with additional transmission capacity and performance. One of the primary purposes is to transmit power generated from new wind farms.

Montana has been identified in some studies as having the nation's second-best wind generation potential behind Texas, said Dan Rapkoch, communications manager for the transmission project.

"The main thrust of the project is renewables," Rapkoch said. "There are a number of wind generation companies that are trying to find the path from (Montana) to the market."

Three alternative routes are being considered. Mapping experts with GPS technology will be at the public meetings to show landowners how the three alternatives could affect them.

"It will help folks to visualize the potential path of the transmission line on their property," Rapkoch said.

North West Energy has applied for a right-of-way from the Bureau of Land Management and a special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service for those portions of the transmission line on federal lands.

The BLM and Montana Department of Environmental Quality are analyzing the potential impacts of the project and are expected to release a joint environmental impact statement toward the end of January.

Sage grouse habitat and other vegetative resources could be impacted, BLM officials said.

The draft environmental impact statement, which will identify one of the three alternatives as the preferred route, will be available for public review and comment early next year.

Related Sites:
Mountain States Transmission Intertie Project: or

Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Proposed Mont.-Idaho Power Line Under Review
Capital Press, October 4, 2009

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