VIRGINIA CITY – At their regular meeting on Tuesday the Madison County Commissioners met with representatives from the Mountain States Transmission Intertie Review Project to receive final project reports and discuss their experience with and interpretation of the review process.
The meeting began with a short video presented by Cameron Ellis of the Sonoran Institute. The short film outlined the history and timeline of the project, and reiterated the purpose of the MSTI Review Project to identify the impacts of the proposed power line as well as alternative routes.
“Our hope is that anybody who starts reading the reports will also go to the website,” said Ellis. “If there are issues that arise and people have questions about the report, we can put our responses there.”
Project coordinator Monique DiGiorgio with the Western Environmental Law Center explained that the 200-page final report consists of an overall summary of the project before going into individual reports with specific, detailed information about impacts to community values, wildlife, local economies, tax revenues and property values. Each sub-report within the final document also includes a two-page overview summary.
“It’s hard in five minutes to try to explain the project and have it come across in a way that people are getting it,” DiGiorgio said.
DiGiorgio said the website for the project, www.mstireviewproject.org, will be used to further explain the project findings and clarify any questions people may have. Project members are also filming video testimonials for the website from different organizations and stakeholders to show reactions to and opinions on the review process.
“We’re going to basically revamp the whole site, because right now if you go to it it really explains the different elements of the project, but we’re going to change that around so that the interviews are front and center, the reports are front and center, whatever else you might want to put up there,” she said.
Commissioner Dan Happel commended the project members who were present for their hard work and dedication to making the MSTI review process a transparent one.
“The reality is that there are a lot of people that don’t trust environmental groups to protect private property, and that’s the one thing that we came away from this with is that you guys really stepped forward and said ‘Yes, we want to protect private property and we want that to be one of the top priorities if not the top priority,” said Happel. “Frankly I went into this with the idea that I was going to have to be a protector of the citizens of Madison County and that you guys were going to be adversarial to us, and it hasn’t worked that way and I’m very pleased with that.”
DiGiorgio reflected on what the review team learned from the project and what the next step in moving forward might be.
“I think there are some lessons learned that we’ve all experienced in terms of the value of what we did, and that it was possible to actually have a transparent process that was meaningful in terms of really taking the communities perspective and putting that spatially into something we could give to DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality),” DiGiorgio said. “We’re thinking in terms of next steps from a broader perspective. There is a ton of information now, obviously, that we have that’s available for you guys to continue using whether it’s the MSTI line or another line.”
“There is a lot of value in what we’ve done regardless of it being the MSTI line,” DiGiorgio continued. “I very much doubt that this is the end of the transmission dialogue in southwest Montana.”