BUTTE, Mont. - NorthWestern Corp., dba NorthWestern Energy, has received approval to begin construction on a $12.5 million, 161,000-volt electric transmission line serving the Gallatin Valley.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has notified the company that it has satisfied the requirements necessary to begin construction. The project went through a public review process including the completion of an Environmental Assessment (EA), in which the DEQ concluded that the construction, operation, or maintenance of the line would not result in significant environmental impacts.

Although the EA process finished in October, the DEQ did not authorize construction until the company had completed all of the necessary requirements to be excluded from the Montana Major Facility Siting Act process. Specifically, the company had to acquire easements for rights of way from at least 75 percent of the landowners who own 75 percent of the right of way. This process was completed in November.

"We're eager to begin construction of this new transmission line which will increase capacity and enhance reliability to customers in the Gallatin Valley," said Dave Gates, vice president - transmission operations. "We've been working through the public review process for one year and appreciate the efforts of state and federal agencies and local landowners and lease holders who recognize the importance of this project to the local economy."

Most of the 30-mile line is being built along the corridor of the existing 50,000-volt line. The existing structures will be replaced with new poles that will carry both the existing 50,000-volt line and the new 161,000-volt line. Upgrades of the two substations are planned also. Rocky Mountain Contractors, Helena, has begun construction on the first half of the project, a 20-mile section of line. The new transmission line is expected to be placed in service in late 2005.

Publication date: 12/13/2004