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Controversy Surrounds Transmission Line Project

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By Brittany Cooper

Cassia County, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) The Bureau of Land Management has released the final Environmental Impact Statement on the Gateway West Transmission Line project. The EIS is controversial and not everyone is pleased with the proposed route.

The project covers approximately 1,200 miles, running from eastern Wyoming to the Idaho – Oregon border, but there's some controversy in Cassia County, here's why.

This is segment seven, showing route alternatives ..."the company's proposed alternative is the red line, the BLM's proposed alternative is the red and black check line, or the green and black check line. Cassia County's green line is to the south," adds Mike Courtney, Burley Field Manager, BLM.

Declo resident Brent Stoker is the chair of the Cassia County Task Force. According to Stoker, the BLM has chosen to place the line that runs over 80% on private land in Power and Cassia counties.

Stoker explains, "we believe that public power that this power line represents should be on public ground which in Idaho is nearly 63% of the total acreage of the state of Idaho."

Stoker points out many southern Idaho farmers rely on mechanical irrigation and power lines could wreak havoc.

"It can cut up a farm and devastate a farm especially if multiple power lines arrive," adds Stoker.

An alternative he proposes is underground technology, a common practice in Europe.

Stoker says, "that would be the only way to take care of all those problems."

David Nebeker also of Declo is concerned with this project. One of the reasons for the BLM preferred route is to protect the sage grouse habitat.

"Which then causes frustration that a bird that doesn't pay taxes has more of a say than a property owner with children," says Nebeker.

We're only in the beginning of the 60–day public comment period, with the public having only until June 28th to comment.

Courtney adds, "then the final EIS process, they've figured out a way to maybe allow for segmented decisions and what they would do is as long as the company has independent line, some of these controversial areas would be allowed more time to work through issues."

The BLM has scheduled nine meetings this month throughout the state. Two of which are in the Magic Valley. On May 13th, there is one at the Red Lion Canyon Springs Inn in Twin Falls and then on the 14th at the Best Western Inn and Conference Center in Burley.

Idaho's congressional delegation has encouraged comment and says the BLM must review the public's input on this project.



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