Congressman Mike Simpson and Congressman Raul Labrador have introduced legislation to address the routing of the Gateway West Transmission Line, through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA). The project – jointly proposed by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power - will construct and operate 1,000 miles of high voltage transmission line across Wyoming and Idaho and creates more than 1,200 jobs and represents $3.5 billion in economic investment. The legislation is a compromise agreement between key stakeholders in Idaho including the State of Idaho, Idaho Power, and conservation organizations.
The compromise agreement will allow the transmission line to be routed using the preferred alternative of the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Advisory Council (RAC) and is supported by the State of Idaho and Idaho Power. The agreement also includes land in the NCA being removed from NCA status and managed as BLM multiple use land. In exchange, the Birds of Prey NCA will receive enhanced mitigation and conservation measures and an additional 4,800 acres will be added to the NCA. These balanced conservation provisions were agreed to by key stakeholders.
“This agreement is a perfect example of collaboration resulting in a win-win solution,” said Congressman Simpson. “I applaud the Conservation Lands Foundation and Idaho Power for their pragmatic approach to a complex issue which will result in both savings for Idaho ratepayers and conservation benefits to the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. I also appreciate the work of the BLM, who helped create this vision and will ultimately be tasked with the heavy lifting of implementation.”
“This bill represents the conclusion of years of hard work by stakeholders,” said Congressman Labrador. “The Gateway West project will have a significant positive impact on Idaho. I am looking forward to moving this bill through the Natural Resources Committee and working with Representative Simpson and our Senators to see this project to the finish line.”
The legislation was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. The legislation is also supported by Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo who were instrumental in building consensus on the agreement.
“This legislation is the culmination of a common-sense, consensus agreement between state and local representatives to best provide for Idaho's energy needs and promote the region's energy infrastructure moving forward,” said Senator Risch. “I applaud Congressman Mike Simpson for taking the lead and introducing this bill in the House of Representatives and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to enact this legislation into law. I also want to thank Idaho Power and the Conservation Lands Foundation for their work--finding a balanced solution that best suits Idaho.”
“This legislation is necessary to ensure the voices of local property owners and stakeholders are truly represented in the siting of this project,” said Senator Mike Crapo.
“The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area was designated in 1993 to protect the greatest concentration of nesting raptors in North America. It is extraordinary habitat,” stated Danielle Murray, Senior Director at the Conservation Lands Foundation. “This legislation expands protections for raptors and eagles while allowing for the development of much needed energy infrastructure. We thank BLM for all their work to protect this region and to Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho Power for their willingness to engage with stakeholders to develop a sensible solution to a complex problem.”
"I'm grateful to Congressman Simpson and our delegation for helping advance an important economic development priority for Idaho," Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter said. "We have been working on the Gateway West transmission line throughout my tenure as governor. I'm hopeful that this legislation, along with the support of key stakeholders, will finally move this critical infrastructure improvement forward."
The agreement also has the support of key conservation groups in Idaho including the Idaho Conservation League, The Nature Conservancy, and The Wilderness Society.
"The Idaho Conservation League supports this solution to a difficult challenge,” said ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson. We appreciate the diligent work of Rep. Mike Simpson, Conservation Lands Foundation, and other partners to provide as close to a win-win solution as can be imagined. Personally, having worked on the creation of the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area with Rep. Larry LaRocco in 1993, I am pleased to see how this resolution further the goals of that designation and provides a forward path for our region's energy infrastructure."