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Home arrowNews arrowNovember 1, 2013

Gateway West Transmission Line Programmatic Agreement Sets New Standard for the BLM

The Gateway West Transmission Line is an interstate and interagency project to construct a new transmission line from Glenrock, Wyoming, to 30 miles southwest of Boise, Idaho. With a length of approximately 1,000 miles, the 300 foot-wide right-of-way may involve lands or permits administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and National Park Service (NPS). One early alternative that was eliminated crossed reservation lands of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, for which the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has trust responsibilities. The BLM served as the lead federal agency for the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 consultations.

BLM site visit near the Sublette Cutoff of the Oregon Trail with representatives of the Oregon-California Trails Association, TRACKs Across Wyoming, National Park Service, and other consulting parties. (Photo courtesy BLM) BLM site visit near the Sublette Cutoff of the Oregon Trail with representatives of the Oregon-California Trails Association, TRACKs Across Wyoming, National Park Service, and other consulting parties. (Photo courtesy BLM)

A number of National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) and National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) eligible sites of national significance are located along the proposed routes. Alternative routes may affect (a) the City of Rocks National Reserve, a unit of the NPS and an NHL, and containing Cassia Silent City of Rocks, a National Natural Landmark; (b) Minidoka National Historic Site, a unit of the NPS and listed on the NRHP as a nationally significant historic property; (c) Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, a unit of the NPS, containing the Hagerman Horse Quarry, a National Natural Landmark, and a portion of the Oregon National Historic Trail; (d) Fossil Butte National Monument, a unit of the NPS, containing Haddenham Cabin, listed on the NRHP as a nationally significant historic property; and (e) intact segments of the Oregon and California National Historic Trails, which are administered by the NPS. These historic properties did not present unusual hurdles in the consultation to develop a Programmatic Agreement (PA), but they were a consideration in the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s (ACHP) decision to join the consultations.

BLM site visit near the Sublette Cutoff of the Oregon Trail with representatives of the Oregon-California Trails Association, TRACKs Across Wyoming, National Park Service, and other consulting parties. (Photo courtesy BLM)When initially notified about the consultations in 2008, the ACHP opted to participate due to the number of NHLs along the proposed routes and because this was one of the first large-scale transmission lines proposed in recent years. The ACHP correctly assessed that agency involvement was important in these early transmission line consultations, as the agreement documents developed for them have become the starting point for other large infrastructure projects.

Initiation of regular consultation meetings for Gateway West began in 2010, and development of the Programmatic Agreement (PA) proceeded in a timely manner. However, completion of the PA was delayed by over a year due to BLM negotiations with the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes on a separate agreement that governed the consultation process between BLM and the tribes on this and other undertakings. During that time, BLM and the ACHP discussed mechanisms that could be employed to ensure that PAs for transmission line projects remain valid and in force for the life of the undertaking, ensuring that historic properties continued to be taken into account. BLM staff from Washington, D.C., state, and field offices worked with the ACHP to ensure that the provisions of the PA and Historic Properties Treatment Plan (HPTP) were carried into the Record of Decision, which is incorporated into the right-of-way grant and thus legally enforceable for the life of the undertaking. This solution allows stipulations regarding historic properties to be carried forward through the operations and maintenance of the transmission line after the PA expires, which in the case of Gateway West is after 10 years. BLM site visit near the Sublette Cutoff of the Oregon Trail with representatives of the Oregon-California Trails Association, TRACKs Across Wyoming, National Park Service, and other consulting parties. (Photo courtesy BLM)The PA was used to spell out a process to develop the HPTP, which would go beyond the resolution of adverse effects to address the life of the transmission line.  For example, the HPTP will identify potential effects to historic properties within the right-of-way from operations and maintenance; include lists of typical activities that will and will not require additional Section 106 review; and ensure that a cultural resource specialist participates in compliance and grant review for the life of the grant.

The BLM, in its role as lead federal agency, consulted with the ACHP, Wyoming and Idaho State Historic Preservation Officers, USFS, BOR, USACE, NPS, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power (the proponents), the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation, the Eastern Shoshone, the Northern Arapaho, the Northern Cheyenne, the Northwestern Band of Shoshone, the Oglala Sioux, Oregon-California Trail Association, Alliance for Historic Wyoming, and National Trust for Historic Preservation. In addition, Tracks Across Wyoming and U.S. Airways Heritage Association signed the agreement as concurring parties.

The Gateway West Transmission Line PA establishes a strong foundation on which other transmission line agreements can build. It addresses a number of challenging issues that can be used to inform the development of agreements on subsequent projects, including defining a process to study historic trails and assess potential visual effects to them. This agreement also illustrates the benefits of the ACHP-BLM partnership as the agencies worked together to address important issues that will influence future transmission line agreements.

To read the PA, click here.

 

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