By Nick Smith, The Bismark Tribune
A siting permit for a major electrical transmission line, part of which goes through the historic Killdeer Mountain battlefield, was approved Wednesday by the Public Service Commission.
The approval came with stipulations in regard to sensitive areas along the route and final federal approval. The line goes through several western North Dakota counties.
A major source of contention for the project has been a section of the line passing through the historic Killdeer Mountain battlefield.
Multiple alternative routes have been considered in order to avoid the site and minimize impacts in the area following opposition from groups and residents concerned about preserving the battle site. A battle between the U.S. military and Native Americans took place at the Killdeer Mountain site in 1864.
Five American Indian tribes in North Dakota have passed a resolution formally opposing the project.
The permit was approved unanimously by the three-member commission, which included approval of findings of fact for a 345-kilovolt line Basin Electric Power Cooperative is seeking to build. Approval of the approximately 200-mile line was held over at the last commission meeting in order to review concerns one final time in a work session.
The Basin project would originate at the company’s Antelope Valley Station near Beulah in Mercer County. It would wind north up to the Neset substation near Tioga in Williams County. The project comes in at an estimated $375 million, which company officials say a large portion is expected to be financed using USDA Rural Utilities Service dollars.
Construction is expected to begin this summer and be completed in 2017.
Commission chairman Brian Kalk said with rapidly growing demand for power in the western part of the state he believed the project was necessary to help meet growing needs.
“This is by far the project that meets the needs of all the stakeholders,” Kalk said.
Wednesday’s permit had several contingencies attached. One requires concurrence from the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s State Historic Preservation Office that no historic properties or sites be affected prior to construction in a 36-square mile study area near the Killdeer battlefield.
A federal Environmental Impact Statement also will be required prior to construction. Concurrence also will be needed from the Williston City Commission that the portion of the project near the city won’t interfere with ongoing efforts to relocate their city airport.
Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, who held over the project two weeks ago, said the increased power capacity in the oil patch is critical to support the growing region. Fedorchak said new roads, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure are being built at breakneck speed to provide for a growing population.
“All of that will be for naught without power infrastructure to support it,” Fedorchak said.