Idaho Power is one step closer to replacing an aging transmission line that runs from Hagerman to Hailey. Blaine County approved a permit for the project last week. Now, the Bureau of Land Management will review it – and will pay special attention to the greater sage grouse in the area.
It’s been nearly a month since the Obama Administration decided not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Although the bird itself hasn't gained federal protection, the Interior Department signed on to new land-use plans to keep the bird's habitat safe. These protections restrict development in sage grouse areas across the 11-state range, and the Hailey-Hagerman transmission line is part of that.
Stacey Baczkowski is a biologist with Idaho Power. She says the company has been working with the BLM for the last few years to make sure the line is built with the bird in mind. Baczkowski says even though the federal agency has new land use restrictions, the rules aren't burdensome for Idaho Power.
“Knowing what the restrictions are, we’re able to accommodate them and build them into our project,” she says.
The biologist says the power company plans to build the new transmission line as close to the current one as possible, and will follow BLM rules about construction during sage grouse mating times. Baczkowski says the added restrictions will likely make the project more expensive.
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