Idaho Power rendering

An Idaho Power rendering shows the proposed redundant transmission line, including distribution and telecommunications wires, crossing state Highway 75 north of East Fork Road.

Ongoing discussion over whether and how to pay for the undergrounding of an Idaho Power transmission line along state Highway 75 will continue at a meeting hosted by the Blaine County commissioners Thursday night.

Last week, the project’s stakeholders held a virtual meeting to discuss funding options for the project, which is expected to cost more than $30 million. The county will hold another meeting this Thursday night; comments from the public will be accepted prior to and during the meeting.

The meetings are a continuation of a years-long discussion on the 9-mile transmission line, which will go near and along state Highway 75.

After initially denying Idaho Power’s request to install an overhead line, the county agreed to allow a redundant line on one condition: It would have to be underground.

Idaho Power agreed to cover the cost of what an overhead line would be, but the county is responsible for the cost of putting it underground from the Hailey substation to where it was already scheduled to dive underground west of Elkhorn Road—a project estimated to cost between $32 million and $38 million.

In an “ideal” scenario, Commissioner Angenie McCleary said at last Thursday’s meeting, Idaho Power would pay to bury the line.

“I feel that we’re left in a really challenging position as a community” when it comes to finding a funding mechanism, McCleary said. “This really is a community decision at this point.”

Negotiations between the county and Idaho Power in recent months have failed to produce a solution that’s acceptable to both parties, county documents show. Options still on the table include adding a surcharge onto Blaine County residents’ power bills to pay for the undergrounding and only partly undergrounding the transmission line; commissioners said last Thursday that they will likely schedule an additional meeting with stakeholders to discuss all options in greater detail.

The meeting Thursday will begin at 6 p.m. It will be held in the commissioners’ meeting room at the Old County Courthouse, but members of the public are strongly encouraged to attend virtually via the internet. To join, visit global.gotomeeting.com/join/323952557 on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can also dial in by calling 224-501-3412 and using the access code 323-952-557.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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