Madison County Commissioners approved a funding agreement between the county and Headwaters Resource, Conservation and Development in support of the Mountain States Transmission Intertie Review Project at their regular meeting in Virginia City on Tuesday.
The agreement provides $20,000 of state funds to be transferred to Madison County through Headwaters RC&D. The state is contracted with Headwaters as a certified regional development corporation to build capacity and understanding of issues in its constituent counties. Both Madison County and Headwaters share the common interest that the MSTI Review Project continue to move forward in determining the best possible location for transmission lines starting in Townsend and finishing near Jerome, Idaho.
Project coordinators Monique DiGiorgio of the Western Environmental Law Center and Dennis Glick of Future West were present to discuss the current status of the MSTI Review Project.
Glick emphasized the importance of working transparently and making sure that people who attend meetings for the project liaison group fully understand what the liaison group is trying to do and what their roles are as members of the public.
The next step in the MSTI Review Project is a series of community mapping workshops, where participants complete worksheets that weigh and rank various important issues in order to identify potential corridors for the transmission line. DiGiorgio said in an emailed press release that the mapping workshops would provide a unique opportunity for county commissioners to represent their views and those of their constituents regarding the potential corridors for the line. The information gathered from these sessions will be used to help map the most suitable areas for a transmission line that minimizes impacts on high value landscapes and community values as identified by the county commissioners. The workshops are scheduled for Feb. 22 in Pocatello and Feb. 23 in Butte from 1 to 4 p.m. at the War Bonnet Inn.
“There’s been no lack of opportunities to talk about this project from a regional application standpoint,” DiGiorgio said.
The board also met with independent contractor Rosemary Curtin of Boise to formulate a report on the MSTI Review Project on behalf of NorthWestern Energy. Curtin asked the board what they saw as plusses and minuses to the project, what has or has not worked well so far and what could be improved in moving forward.
Commissioner Dan Happel said the project all boils down to the protection of private property rights.
“If NorthWestern really wants to make this thing happen, they need to start concentrating back on an energy corridor,” Happel said. “Once they do that I think they’re going to find their own solution, and I think we will be supportive of it.”
Commissioner Jim Hart pointed out the very real possibility of siting the transmission lines on public land because of the MSTI Review Project’s involvement with the Bureau of Land Management.
“We need to make sure that we communicate accurately and correctly with our public, because that’s who we work for,” Hart said.
In other news the board received an update from Andrea Sarchet, Montana State University Extension Agent for Madison and Jefferson County. The board also met with Marilyn Ross of the Montana Heritage Commission, who introduced the MHC’s new business manager Elijah Allen. The next regular Madison County Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the Broadway Annex in Virginia City.