Task force will voice frustrations at power line open house tonight

The Bureau of Land Management will hold an open house on the Environmental Impact Statement, a study for the Gateway West Transmission line. The open house will be held tonight, Wednesday, May 15, at the American Falls Intermediate School (the old High School), 254 Taylor Street, from 4 to 7 p.m.

The Power County Gateway West Citizens Task Force, in conjunction with task forces in Cassia County, Bannock County, Oneida County and Twin Falls County, submitted preferred routes that would not have had as detrimental impact upon the economic base of the counties. However, the BLM chose routes in the environmental impact statement that would place the transmission line project primarily on private property while running through those counties, according to the task forces.

The counties chose a plan that would move the line south, through mostly unpopulated areas, and not through dry and irrigated farmland in the Rockland and Arbon valleys. However, the BLM stuck with a plan closer to the original plan that would run through the valleys.

A press release by the task force criticizes much of the route.

“One of the reasons the BLM rejected the counties’ suggested route for Segment 7 was its increased length. However, the BLM’s own proposal added 12 miles to the total length of Segment 7, and over 17 miles more on private land. Similarly the BLM preferred alternative for Segment 5 is 17.6 miles longer than our proposed route and is substantially a greater burden to privately owned land. Both BLM preferred routes for Segments 5 and 7 place the line 80 percent on private land in Power and Cassia Counties, and only 19 percent on BLM land. This is despite the fact that in Idaho 63 percent of the land is public. The BLM was able to route the other Idaho segments 77% on public land,” the release stated.

“What the BLM has done with its preferred routes is attempted to force the transmission line project off of public land and onto privately owned agricultural land. They are more concerned with the impact of a project on sage brush than they are on our agricultural livelihood.” said Larry Bethke, president of Guardians of Agricultural Lands, Inc. (GOAL), a Power County non-profit corporation.

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