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North Steens 230-kV Transmission Line Project EIS Oregon/Washington BLM



North Steens 230-kV Transmission Line Project EIS

Current Status

As of December 2014:

On March 16, 2012, the BLM issued a Right-of-Way (under Title V of the Federal Land Policy Management Act) to Echanis, LLC (the project proponent) for the North Steens Transmission Line Project. The BLM and Echanis, LLC then worked together to ensure the 10 plans necessary for the next step in the process - a Notice to Proceed authority given by the BLM - met the intent of the project's Record of Decision. On May 21, 2012 the BLM issued a limited Notice to Proceed that allows the project proponent to move forward with non-ground breaking activities in preparation for construction. On February 22, 2013, the BLM revoked the limited Notice to Proceed and refunded the bond to the project proponent. Due to litigation, the project has been on hold for nearly 2 years. As a result, the BLM will have to recalculate the bond and issue a new Notice to Proceed prior to construction. District Court Judge Mosman found for BLM on all counts in the District Court Decision issued September 11, 2013. The appellants appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Project Background

The BLM announced the availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the North Steens 230kV Transmission Line Project. The ROD was signed on December 28, 2011 by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in Washington D.C. The ROD contains a right-of-way (ROW) grant decision under Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). BLM's decision is to issue new ROW grants to Echanis, LLC (Echanis) for a 230kV overhead electric transmission line, new and existing access roads, overland access routes, and temporary tensioning sites as described under Alternative C - North Route, in the North Steens 230kV Transmission Line Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The FEIS was made available on October 21, 2011 upon publication of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Notice of Availability (NOA) published in the Federal Register.

The Final EIS incorporated revisions resulting from public review of the Draft EIS, released in July 2010. The Final EIS analyzed the proposed route, two deviations of the proposed route, the north route, a 115-kV construction alternative, and a "No Action" alternative. Because the wind farm developments and transmission line on private land are connected actions under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Final EIS also analyzed the effects of these proposed facilities. The North Route (Alternative C) was identified as the BLM's preferred alternative in the Final EIS. The North Route, now referred to as the Selected Alternative has been approved by the ROD.

In 2009 Echanis, a subsidiary of Columbia Energy Partners, LLC (CEP) proposed a 29-mile, 230-kilovolt (kV) line that would convey power generated from wind farms proposed for development on private land on the north side of Steens Mountain. The transmission line route proposed by Echanis would have crossed BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) land, and private lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as lead preparer, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, prepared the FEIS for the project to analyze the effects of granting, granting with conditions, or denying Echanis' Right-of-Way (ROW) application to construct, operate, and maintain a 230-kV transmission line, associated access roads, and other ancillary facilities across public lands managed by BLM and the USFWS. The Applicant's related proposal to develop a wind generation facility on private land in Harney County, Oregon, is dependent upon Federal approval of the ROW grant for the transmission line on public lands. Harney County has already approved a Conditional Use Permit for the private land wind generation facility.

Project Location

The Selected Alternative for the transmission project is located near Diamond, Oregon, roughly 55 miles southeast of Burns. The Selected Alternative would extend from the proposed Echanis Wind Energy Project substation on private land near Diamond (Township 31 South, Range 34 East, Section 35) for about 46 miles north to a new interconnection station adjacent to Harney Electric Cooperative's existing 115-kV transmission line near Crane, Oregon (Township 25 South, Range 33 East, Section 12). The Selected Alternative would cross BLM, private lands, and a small amount of State of Oregon lands.

The Selected Alternatives approximately 46 miles long with approximately 34 miles crossing private lands and 12miles crossing lands managed by BLM. USFWS lands would not be affected by approval of the Selected Alternative. The Selected Alternative also consists of constructing approximately 4.5 miles of new access roads, improving about 1.5 miles of existing road and creating 7.4 miles overland access roads, across public land.

Documents Available

Copies of the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statements and the Record of Decision can viewed online (see links above). Copies of the ROD are also available at the following locations during regular business hours:

  • Harney County Library, 80 West "D" Street, Burns, Oregon 97720
  • Bend Public Library, Reference Department, 601 NW Wall Street, Bend, Oregon 97701
  • Multnomah County Library, Government Documents, 801 SW 10th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97205
  • Bureau of Land Management, Burns District Office, 28910 Hwy 20 West, Hines, Oregon 97738

Compact disks containing the FEIS are available at the BLM Burns District Office at the address listed above. No compact disks of the ROD are available, but an individual may download and burn a CD from the website referenced above if so desired.

Contact Information

For further information, contact the North Steens Transmission Line Project Lead during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Federal holidays:

Mail: 28910 Hwy 20 W, Hines, Oregon, 97738
Phone: 541-573-4400
Fax: 541-573-4411
Email: BLM_OR_BU_NS_Transmission_Line_EIS@blm.gov