Proposed Line Scenery

Twin Lake near La Grande is along the proposed route of the Boardman to Hemingway project. The line would pass along the far side of the lake.

PENDLETON — The massive Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line has cost around $100 million without the installation of a single utility pole.

The 300-plus-mile, 500-kilovolt line will be ready to carry juice as early as 2026 at a cost of $1 billion or more.

Idaho Power, PacificCorp and Bonneville Power Administration teamed up on the project, and Idaho Power is spearheading the local, state and federal permitting work. Sven Berg, Idaho Power spokesperson, explained that is because the company identified the need for a big transmission line in its 2006 Integrated Resource Plan — or IRP — which projects for future electrical needs and how to meet those needs.

Idaho Power, however, has the smallest share of the line capacity and thus the project costs at 21%, while the BPA has a 24% share and PacificCorp the remaining 55%.

In other words, Berg said, if the line costs an even $1 billion, Idaho Power’s portion of the tab is $210 million.

The $100 million the 13-year-old project has cost so far is for staff time, attorneys and the reams of paperwork to wade through the lengthy permitting processes. That includes with the Oregon Department of Energy, which on Thursday closed the public comment period on its “draft proposed order” recommending the state Energy Facility Siting Council approve Idaho Power’s application for a site certificate for the line.

Berg said the company’s team is reviewing the comments.

“We’re anticipating a contested case,” he said.

That is, opponents to the project, namely the La Grande-based Stop B2H Coalition, who spoke out in a series of public hearings in early summer and provided additional comments in writing by the Thursday 5 p.m. deadline. Anyone who met either of those requirements has the standing to challenge or contest the proposal.

Berg said Idaho Power has until Sept. 23 to respond to those comments, then would come the “quasi-judicial” appeals process.

And if all goes well for Idaho Power, he said, the state’s draft proposed order would become the proposed order by the end of the year, with the final order and permitting coming in 2021. Construction would begin in 2022, wrap up four years later, and Boardman to Hemingway would going live soon after.

Berg said B2H is one of Idaho Power’s biggest projects since the Hells Canyon Complex of dams in the 1960s.

“We see this as crucial to ushering in the clean energy future we envision,” he said.

Idaho Power’s goal is to use only renewable energy by 2045 amid the growing population of the northwestern United States. The existing power lines are at capacity, according to Idaho Power, and B2H would alleviate Oregon’s high-power needs in the winter and the Mountain West’s increased need for electricity in the summer without having to build new generating plants. The line, then, would integrate the region, Berg said, and make power more reliable.

The Stop B2H Coalition contends there are better solutions to the region’s energy needs than clear-cutting swaths of private and public lands for big power lines atop towering utility poles. The East Oregonian covered the coalition in a June 6 story available here:

Berg said the public input has helped shape the project to find ways to mitigate environmental impacts and avoid sensitive areas.

“We think what we have here,” he said, “is a better version of the line than what we began with.”

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