21-04-21 Idaho Power.jpg

This rendering shows the proposed redundant transmission line along state Highway 75, as it would cross the highway just north of the East Fork intersection. Burying the middle distribution lines—for an additional $5.7 million—would trim the pole height by about 13 feet, according to County Planner Allison Marks.

The Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday denied a public motion asking them to reconsider allowing Idaho Power to build an aboveground redundant transmission line along state Highway 75, on the grounds that the request was made after the legal window to submit such a motion had closed.

But the commission’s decision to let Idaho Power build a largely overhead transmission line still faces a challenge in court. A petition for judicial review, filed by attorney Fritz Haemmerle on behalf of eight community members, is pending.

On March 15, the Blaine County commissioners approved Idaho Power’s request to build an overhead redundant transmission line while burying the existing distribution lines along the highway to reduce the overall visual impact of the project. The proposal also includes a 1.4-mile stretch of land south of Ketchum, between Elkhorn Road and Owl Rock Road, where the transmission line would be buried underground.

The commission had previously issued Idaho Power a conditional-use permit to build the transmission line on the condition that the entire line be entrenched underground, but Idaho Power was only willing to pay the cost of constructing an aboveground line—leaving the county responsible for the $38 million cost of burying it. Ultimately, the county opted to pursue the less expensive route of burying only the existing distribution lines, with the exception of the 1.4-mile stretch south of Ketchum.

Haemmerle submitted a motion asking the commissioners to reconsider their decision on March 30—15 days after the commission officially approved the conditional-use permit for Idaho Power, according to county attorney Tim Graves. The request was one day late, Graves said, as the deadline to submit such a motion is 14 days after the decision is announced. On Tuesday, the commissioners voted to deny the request in light of the missed deadline.

But submitting a motion to the county wasn’t the only action that opponents of the transmission line have taken in an effort to change the commissioners’ minds: On April 9, Haemmerle filed a petition for judicial review in 5th District Court, asking a judge to send the matter back to the commission for reconsideration. The petition was filed on behalf of eight local property owners, including former commission candidate Kiki Tidwell, who say they would be affected by the transmission line’s impact on the nearby scenery and argue that the commissioners did not have the authority to change their original decision on the matter.

The judicial review is pending.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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