Public can weigh in on proposed transmission line

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — It's time for the public to again weigh in on a long-discussed transmission line that would carry electricity from the Columbia River region across eastern Oregon to western Idaho.

Idaho Power is seeking approval for the 500-kilovolt line, which would run 305 miles from Boardman, Oregon, to a substation near Melba, Idaho. The company says the line will reduce constraints on the regional transmission system as demand for energy grows. It hopes to start construction in 2018 and finish by 2020.

Overshadowing the process is the possible listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species, the Ontario Argus Observer reported ( ). That possibility created a challenge for planners working to weave the proposed route around areas identified as core habitat for the grouse.

Idaho Power and the Bureau of Land Management first put the project out for scoping in 2008. Many residents protested the route that would have gone over large swaths of private land, including farmland and homes.

Because of the pushback, Idaho Power pulled that proposal and, after holding meetings with citizen advisory groups, resubmitted a revised application to route the transmission across federal land in 2010. A second revised plan was released in early 2011, and a third revised plan came out later that year.

The draft environmental impact statement released this month puts 67 percent of the route on private land and 33 percent on public land.

The proposed route through Malheur County, Oregon, where much of the 2008 pushback occurred, stays away from populated areas and exclusive farm ground.

The BLM will decide whether to grant the right-of-way on public lands Idaho Power is requesting for the line. The agency also could choose an alternate route, according to the document. The Oregon Department of Energy also must approve the project and has a similar review process underway.

The final environmental impact statement is scheduled to come out in early 2016, with a final decision coming out later that year.

The public has until March 19 to comment. A public meeting in Marsing, Idaho, has been scheduled for Jan. 13. In Oregon, early January meetings have been scheduled in Ontario and five other eastern cities.

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