The Bonneville Power Administration plans to start building the McNary-John Day high-voltage transmission line, which would run through southern Benton County, this spring.
Construction on the $246 million project is expected to create about 700 jobs at its peak, BPA announced Thursday.
The decision to proceed with the project was based in part on increased BPA borrowing authority included in the federal stimulus bill signed this week by President Obama.
“BPA is moving quickly to put people to work,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement. “That’s because this funding gives BPA the room to breathe in these tough economic times and the certainty to move forward with new projects. It will also help to bring alternative sources of energy online throughout the Northwest.”
When construction is completed in late 2012, the line will allow BPA to provide transmission service for more than 870 megawatts of energy, including service for more than 700 megawatts of new wind energy.
The 500-kilovolt transmission line will start at the McNary Substation in Umatilla and cross the Columbia River just north of the substation into Washington. The line then would travel west for about 70 miles along the river through Benton and Klickitat counties before crossing the river again at John Day Dam to end at the John Day Substation.
The line will be built mostly in existing right of way.
An environmental study was done for the proposed 75-mile transmission line in 2002, but the project was put on hold because of changing energy market conditions.
Requests by new power generators to use the transmission system in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon led BPA to consider reviving the plan in 2008. The version of the plan that has been approved reduces the project’s transmission services from the 1,250 megawatts originally considered to 870 megawatts to match its planned use now, which is mostly for wind generation.
“We are not able to get much of the wind power on the grid because it’s old, needs to be rebuilt and does not go to the right places,” Murray said earlier as she worked to get the extra borrowing authority included in the economic stimulus bill and the bill approved.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $3.25 billion in borrowing authority for BPA from the U.S. Treasury Department for capital projects, such as modernizing the region’s power grid. BPA is the largest marketer of wholesale electricity in the Northwest.
“This project is a fine example of infrastructure spending that provides the most bang for the buck,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in a statement.
The additional borrowing capacity for BPA in the economic stimulus bill will allow a total of 4,700 megawatts of wind energy to come online and create 20,000 green jobs, Murray’s staff said.
The McNary-John Day transmission is one of four high-voltage transmission lines BPA has proposed to meet the region’s transmission needs. It’s the most “shovel-ready” of the projects, BPA said last month. Since then the agency has completed a supplemental environmental study to update the 2002 study.
Environmental studies on the other three transmission projects should begin soon, BPA said. Those studies could take 18 months to three years for each of the proposed lines, depending on their complexity.
By Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald – http://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennewick_pasco_richland/story/484899.html