- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Bureau of Land Management has authorized the final routes connecting the high-voltage Gateway West transmission line project between southwestern Idaho and central Wyoming.

The BLM’s Record of Decision, signed Friday, means Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power can build and operate 321 miles of 500-kilovolt transmission lines on public land in Idaho’s Gooding, Elmore, Owyhee, Cassia and Twin Falls counties.

The route avoids sage grouse habitat and private land, but crosses about 9 miles of conservation area for raptors.

The segments are part of the 1,000-mile Gateway West transmission line project to deliver 1,500 megawatts from southern Wyoming through southern Idaho to points west, potentially tapping into Wyoming’s wind energy.

Federal officials have already approved the rest of the project, but no work has started. Construction of the entire power line is expected to begin in 2019 and last through 2024.

Some property owners and environmental advocates opposed the Idaho portion of the routes, in part because the lines cross the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

“Gateway West has been an Administration priority project to transform our electric power grid and spur development of renewable energy,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze in a prepared statement. “Today’s decision authorizes the routes with the least impact on private property, farmland, historic trails and cultural resources, visual resources, wetlands, sage grouse habitat, and the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.”

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