Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tribes opposing Basin project in battlefield

Tribes opposing Basin project in battlefield

All of North Dakota’s Native American tribes say they are opposed to a Basin Electric Power Cooperative transmission line the co-op plans to build through the heart of the historic Killdeer Mountain battlefield.
The five tribes sent notice of their opposition to the Public Service Commission, which is holding the last of three public hearings on the project today in Williston.
The tribes’ unanimous vote of resolution was signed by Three Affiliated Tribes chairman Tex Hall and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate chairman Robert Shepherd, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the United Tribes of North Dakota. The two are chairman and secretary respectively of United Tribes.
Basin is planning to build a new 200-mile transmission line to carry some 500 megawatts of electricity from its lignite-fired Antelope Valley Station near Beulah into the oil patch west of Killdeer, through Watford City, Williston and over to Tioga.
About eight miles of the line would pass through an area designated for study under the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Program. The North Dakota State University-led study could lead to the battlefield being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
News of the study came just days before the first PSC hearing in Killdeer last week, and Basin quickly moved to pull a planned substation out of the battlefield area.
Basin spokesman Curt Pearson said the tribes’ opposition to the project is a significant comment. He said Basin is considering a number of options, including moving the line off the field of battle, but, “We haven’t heard anyone say this is not needed. I don’t think that’s in question.”
The oil patch has a huge appetite for electricity and Basin forecasts the region’s peak demand will grow from 800 megawatts now to more than 2,000 megawatts in the next decade. The co-op said the first of three new gas-fired, 45-megatwatt power plants went on line in the oil patch last week.
It could be two months before the PSC approves a route permit for the transmission. Its approval will likely be contingent on federal approval of an Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected in March 2014. The environmental OK is required because Basin plans to use federal financing for the $375 million project.
Basin said it has already acquired more than
75 percent of the landowner easements for the transmission line and would be out the money if the line, or a portion, is relocated. It has also said it may build yet a second transmission line on the east side of the Killdeer Mountains to serve the oil patch.
The tribes say their opposition is based on the possibility that construction “could potentially disturb the remains of those killed at the site. Those who managed to escape were unable to give relatives appropriate burial ceremonies and many bodies remain buried at the site.”
Tom Isern, who will lead the NDSU study, said the 1864 Battle of the Killdeer Mountains was the largest engagement of military and Native Americans in the Great Plains. Today it is marked by a small monument maintained by the State Historic Society.

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/tribes-opposing-basin-project-in-battlefield/article_b6c1308e-1b78-11e3-bc25-001a4bcf887a.html