The Public Service Commission says it’s just one step in the process – but it’s a big step.
The PSC has given its okay to a siting permit for a new high voltage transmission line to serve customers in the oil patch. The 345-kilovolt line will run from the Antelope Valley power plant to Tioga. The 197 mile line is being built by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
The line has been controversial – because of the Killdeer Mountain battlefield site.
"There'll be those who will say the Commission has now approved a route that's going to run through the battlefield," said PSC Chairman Brian Kalk. "But there's an on-going discussion that will continue, with the State Historical Preservatuion office. There are discussions with a lot of different organizations, even concerning whate the Battlefield may or may not look like. This is a process, and there are many other groups still involved in this discussion."
Kalk says a federal environmental impact statement still needs to be finished as well.
"This project is literally going to be a life preserver for that region, keeping lights and furnaces and air conditioners running when they're needed the most," said Commissioner Randy Christmann.
The Commissioners say they have tried to minimize any impact to the area. And Basin spokesman spokesman Curt Pearson says the transmission co-op has done what the State Historic Preservation Office has asked – and worked to make sure there is minimal impact. He says the bottom line is – it’s a necessary project.
"The electric load growth in western North Dakota is truly phenomenal," said Pearson after the PSC meeting. "This line is needed to serve our member electric cooperatives and their customers, from farmers and ranchers to the new stores, to the new hotels, and of course to the oil industry."
Pearson says work on the new power line could begin later this year.