Tester Asks Officials to Go Slow on Power Line

By Beacon Staff

BUTTE – Montana officials should slow the process for reviewing a power line through the southwest part of the state so residents can have more time to comment, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester says.

The Montana Democrat sent a June 8 letter to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality urging the agency to take its time developing a draft environmental impact statement for the project.

The draft is expected in about a month, and will be followed by a 90-day comment period.

“I urge the Department of Environmental Quality to slow down and give folks more time to comment, including holding public meetings,” Tester wrote.

Northwestern Energy wants to build the 345-mile, 500-kilovolt Mountain States Transmission Intertie power line to ship power out of state, and various routes are being considered. The line would travel from Townsend to Idaho Power Co.’s Midpoint Substation near Twin Falls in south-central Idaho.

Some residents are concerned the power line could mar the landscape. There’s also concern about how the line would affect wildlife, ranching and recreation.

“I think (Tester’s) goal is the same as ours,” said DEQ Director Richard Opper. “I think our objectives are exactly the same, which is to give people adequate time to weigh in substantively on the best choice for a preferred route for this power line. They also need to weigh in on whether the need exists.”

The Bureau of Land Management and the DEQ are the lead agencies working on the draft environmental impact statement.

“Montana DEQ is probably going to do a good job in explaining to Tester and his office that this has been a very open process,” said Mark Mackiewicz, national project manager for the Bureau of Land Management.

“In my opinion, Montana DEQ has just gone above and beyond the call of duty to try to find an acceptable alternative,” Mackiewicz said. “I think we’ve been extremely responsive.”