TWIN FALLS • The federal agency reviewing the Gateway West Transmission Line project has announced its preferences for the route.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has selected its preferred alternative routes for the 1,100-mile high-voltage transmission line. The agency chose from options in a draft study that broke the route into segments that listed the route as proposed by Idaho Power Co. and Rocky Mountain Power, along with a number of suggested alternatives.

The project is expected to upgrade electric transmission capabilities for southern Idaho and southern Wyoming. Its route has been controversial in several Idaho counties, locally including Cassia County, in large part because of the amount of private farmland several options would cross.

The BLM’s selection in Cassia County would cut fairly directly through the county and consume 25 miles of BLM land and 100 miles of private property. But the route avoids priority archaeological sites and critical habitat for the sage grouse, which has been identified as a candidate for federal protection.

Cassia County has repeatedly attempted to avoid any of the transmission line from being installed on private property.

A taskforce of local landowners and county officials was created to find an alternative route. Their suggestion would utilize public land, dropping as south as the Nevada border, and require only 55 miles of private land.

Just because the BLM did not select the taskforce’s preferred route doesn’t mean it won’t be used in the end, said Beverly Gorny, spokeswoman for the BLM.

“The public will have another opportunity to comment on the route,” she said. “We’re still anxious to hear from what the public has to say.”

The agency is expected to release its final study of the project’s impacts later this year. Once released, a 60-day comment period will begin, she said.

After the comment period and a final route decision, the proponents will begin permitting for private property rights-of-way.

The taskforce is expecting to comment against the BLM’s recommendations, said Doug Pickett, vice-chairman of the group.

“We are going to still fight it,” he said. “We feel like we made a lot of progress finding an alternative.”

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