Monday, January 20, 2014

Killdeer Mountain group wants line redrawn

Killdeer Mountain group wants line redrawn

BISMARCK, N.D. — The Killdeer Mountain Alliance wants the Rural Utilities Service to force a power company to redraw plans for a transmission line that avoids crossing the historic Killdeer Mountain battlefield.
The alliance is a citizens' group trying to protect the high butte area west of Killdeer where a Civil War-era battle was waged between the U.S. military and Plains Indians in 1864.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative wants to send more electricity from its Antelope Valley Station near Beulah into the oil patch and is undergoing an environmental review for the project.
The co-op prefers to build two 345-kilovolt lines, one on either side of the Killdeer Mountains, to get power to the oil patch, where the demand is projected to be double earlier forecasts.
The co-op has submitted two alternatives that would put both lines on the east side of the Killdeer Mountains and avoid going near Theodore Roosevelt National Park's north unit, but all three alternatives include construction of a main feeder line through the battlefield area to a main substation by U.S. Highway 85.
Basin plans to borrow up to $500 million from the federal Rural Utilities Service, which is leading an environmental review for itself and the U.S. Forest Service. The Rural Utilities Service held a public hearing Thursday and will hold open the comment period on the supplemental draft EIS until Feb. 3.
Rob Sand, spokesman for the alliance, said Monday it doesn't make sense for one federal agency to degrade the battlefield while another federal agency — the National Park Service — is trying to protect it through the National Register of Historic Places.
The park service also has awarded $90,000 under its American Battlefield Protection Program for a study by North Dakota State University to detail the history and condition of the Killdeer Mountain site.
Sand said the 150th anniversary of the battle will be observed this summer.
"What must be done to avoid degrading this unique historical and cultural site (on the anniversary)?" Sand asked.
Basin already has a line to the substation south of the one planned for construction through the battlefield.
Basin spokesman Curt Pearson said that existing line can't be used to carry the additional capacity.
"An outage on that line would not allow us to meet our member cooperatives' needs. A second line offers redundancy. If one line is out of service, the loads can be served by the second line," he said.
The alliance also is claiming the RUS didn't meet a 15-day requirement to notify the public of last week's public meeting. However, the RUS did publish a legal notice in the Bismarck Tribune on Dec. 21 and again on Jan. 9.
(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.)