HELENA – Government agencies and a conservation group oppose a proposal to develop a power-generating facility in the Elkhorn Mountains northwest of Townsend.
Gridflex Energy of Boise, Idaho, filed an application for a preliminary permit to build the plant on land transferred to the Bureau of Land Management after being purchased by The Conservation Fund.
The project would generate power to supplement wind energy to be carried on the proposed Mountain States Transmission Intertie line. NorthWestern Energy wants to build the line from a substation near Townsend to a substation near Jerome, Idaho.
Gridflex proposes building two reservoirs, one with a 225-foot dam and a second with a 40-foot dam. Both reservoirs would have storage capacities just under 5,000 acre-feet.
Gridflex CEO Matthew Shapiro said the company proposes partially filling the reservoirs with water from nearby Canyon Ferry Reservoir. When power is needed, they would run water from the upper reservoir through the pump house and into the lower reservoir, and transmit the power to a proposed NorthWestern Energy substation.
The water would be pumped back into the upper reservoir at times that electricity rates are lowest, the Independent Record reports.
The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Elkhorn Working Group all say the project isn’t an appropriate use of land in the Elkhorn Wildlife Management Unit.
The Elkhorn Working Group notes that the site of the proposed project was purchased for the purpose of removing the threat of development.
“The proposed project is contrary to every agency, Elkhorn Working Group and public management goal for this special area,” the group wrote in commenting on the application for a preliminary permit.
Tom Carlson, a state wildlife biologist, said the agency has “serious concerns regarding negative impacts to wildlife should this proposed project move beyond the feasibility study.”
Shapiro said the Townsend location is one of a few sites across the West that Gridflex is looking at.
“There are some environmental sensitivities that we’ll have to consider as we evaluate whether to move forward on that site,” Shapiro said Thursday. “In some respects this is a fantastic location for the project, but if it’s too sensitive of an area, it’s not worth the impact that you would make.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding