Farmers and commissioners in Power County came out Wednesday night to voice their frustration against how the Bureau of Land Management is handling the construction of a power line that could run through their area. The Mountain States Transmission Inter-tie project, funded by Northwest Energy, would run from Montana to Twin Falls.
The Power County Courthouse was packed with farmers ready to speak out. They were angry, impassioned and unwilling to fold. Wallace Driscoll is 78 years old and said he is not afraid to stand up for himself.
“You’re not getting the job done. So why can’t we just say, ‘No?’ That’s what you’re saying the government says, ‘No.’ You say the line can’t go through the gap. That’s fine, I say, ‘No,’ too,” Driscoll said.
Many of the farmers want the lines to go through the Craters of the Moon monument, like power lines that run through Yellowstone National Park. BLM Project Manager Tim Bozorth said because it is a national monument, building through Craters of the Moon is politically impossible.
“It’s taking time and money from the company to analyze something that we know isn’t going to happen in the end,” Bozorth said.
Bozorth said they have tried to minimize the impact of the project as much as possible. In its current state, there are only 3.4 miles of farmland that would be affected by the project.
But farmers and the county are frustrated because other alternatives will not be considered, they said. Blaine County was discussed as an option, but removed from the table in part because the people there did not want it. That makes the people in Power County feel slighted.
“We know things are differently in other places and being treated differently and in some cases like this one, big difference,” one farmer said.
“I think we want you on board. I think that’s what Tim (Bozorth) just told you as well. We’d like to have you on board as a cooperating agency,” said Tom Prankratz of Northwest Energy.
Power County was originally on board as a cooperating agency until regulations forced the BLM to draft a new memorandum of understanding stating that the county could not have a part in a consensus. The county refused to resign the MOU without that contingency.
The BLM agreed Wednesday night to have the county’s attorney meet with the BLM solicitor to try to work out a new agreement.