BPA Plans to Rebuild Flathead Transmission Line

By Beacon Staff

The Bonneville Power Administration is planning on rebuilding a 41-mile transmission line between Kalispell and Polson. The rebuild is the topic of two public meetings this month to gather comments about the project and answer questions.

According to project manager Amanda Williams, BPA built the 115-kilovolt Kalispell-Kerr transmission line in 1947. The new transmission line will be built to modern standards but look like the current one, Williams said.

“We do regular maintenance and inspections on the line, but we’ve reached a tipping point where our maintenance is not keeping up with the work,” she said. “As with anything, the wood poles have become structurally deficient.”

The 66-year-old transmission line is held up by two- and three-pole wood structures from Kalispell to Polson. The new poles will be about 10 feet taller than the current ones, have a metal cross bar and include an overhead wire to shield it from lightning strikes. Currently, an overhead shield wire only protects a half mile of the line near the Elmo substation.

Williams said BPA has completed similar projects across the Pacific Northwest for the last three or four years. It’s unknown how much the project will cost until engineers research the project. Parts of that research process are the two public meetings, one in Polson on June 17 and another in Kalispell on June 18.

The BPA is completing an Environmental Assessment for the project this summer. Williams said the earliest construction could begin would be in 2016. She estimates it will take two complete construction seasons to finish the project. When work begins, contractors will shut down parts of the line and redirect power through other wires.

“We usually don’t have to take power from people with a line project like this,” Williams said.

The new line will be located in the same spot as the current one. Access roads will be constructed or improved along the line and Williams said the roads would aid maintenance in the future.

On June 17 meeting is at the Polson City Library on First Avenue from 4 to 7 p.m. The June 18 meeting is in Kalispell at Edgerton Elementary School from 4 to 7 p.m. Residents who cannot attending the meetings can learn about the project by visiting www.bpa.gov/goto/kalispellkerr. They can also send comments on the project until June 28 at www.bpa.gov/comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated BPA was completing an “Environmental Impact Statement.” It should have read an “Environmental Assessment.” Work is expected to begin in 2016, after a record of decision is made.

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