Following a public meeting and comment period, the Gallatin National Forest selected Alternative Three for implementation, which utilizes existing right-of-way (ROW) except for two alternative routes near Cave Creek and Cascade Creek. The new ROW in these areas removes the transmission line from within the recreation residence tracts (although the distribution line will remain), and eliminates two transmission line crossings and a distribution line crossing of the Gallatin River. Alternative 3 effectively meets the purpose and need to upgrade the existing transmission line while reducing visual and natural impacts surrounding the Cave and Cascade Recreational Residence Tracts, the Lava Lake Trail Head, and the Gallatin River, which is an eligible Wild and Scenic River.
The entire length of the project is 37 miles from the Four Corners area of Bozeman to Big Sky, with 16 of those miles across NFS lands. The project will allow NorthWestern Energy to improve capacity and reliability so that it can meet current and future demands for service. The Gallatin Valley and Big Sky areas are among the fastest growing within NorthWestern Energy’s service territory, and current usage exceeds capacity of the existing transmission line about 40 percent of the time.
The ROD and FEIS are available to download on the Gallatin National Forest’s website at www.fs.usda.gov/gallatin, and is also available for review at the Bozeman, Belgrade, and Big Sky public libraries. For more information about the project, or to request a copy of the ROD and FEIS, please contact Amy Waring, Project Leader, at 406-255-1451. A 45-day appeal period begins March 29, 2013, and work on the project may start as soon as May.