The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission will continue to hash out details for a state-approved electrical transmission line through the Wood River Valley on Tuesday, Nov. 13, when Idaho Power returns to the Old County Courthouse in Hailey to discuss design.
In September 2017, the state Public Utilities Commission approved the line after it was rejected by the county commissioners. Under Idaho law, local land-use decisions that conflict with PUC decisions are void, setting Idaho Power on a path to build. But the ruling only charts a path; it doesn’t specify how the final line should look.
Reducing the impact on state Highway 75’s scenic corridor remains a priority for the county. For its part, Idaho Power is open to ideas, so long as it moves forward with providing redundant power for the north county. The company is committed to paying for a base version of the line, which would run above ground out of the Wood River substation before dropping underground at the southern edge of Ketchum near Elkhorn Road. Anything beyond that—namely, burying the line at other points along the route—is in play, as long the county can pay for it.
The estimated price tag to bury the whole network comes to $40.2 million above Idaho Power’s benchmark—$34.5 million for transmission and $5.7 million for distribution lines. The P&Z is not required to consider the cost when approving a design—funding falls to the county commissioners—but early indications suggest that available sources would barely put a dent in the total.
That leaves decisions to be made. The public process will resume in a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the main meeting room of the Old County Courthouse. To review the record of the permitting process to date, visit blainecounty.org/203/Planning-Zoning-Application-Materials.