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G. EDWARD DICKEY: Route that skirts battlefield must be considered

DICKINSON, N.D. — Like many North Dakotans, we, too would like to know who knew what and when about the extent and importance of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield, as this information relates to Basin Electric’s proposed Antelope Valley to Neset, N.D., transmission line.

But we are concerned that the current debate will distract from a more urgent concern: the legal requirements related to any project that requires government approval and desires federal subsidies.

The proposed transmission line is such a project.

The laws in question are the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The essence of these laws is that when our nation’s important historical, cultural or ecological values are impacted by a development project, several alternatives must be developed and proposed, so that concerned government agencies can weigh benefits and costs of each.

The purpose of both laws is to make a final decision that truly is in the public interest, as opposed to only in the interest of the contractual parties.

The contractual parties in this case are the directly affected landowners and Basin Electric. Basin has bet on state and federal approval of its plan and apparently already paid the landowners enough to cause most of them to accept the proposed transmission-line route.

But this is not adequate reason for the plan to be approved.

Unfortunately, either out of ignorance or or contempt for the above-mentioned laws, Basin has not yet presented even one alternative that avoids negative impacts to the Killdeer Mountain battlefield, tribal cultural sites and ecologically important areas.

Federal laws cannot be so readily dismissed.

Basin must develop and propose at least one alternative route that avoids these impacts, in order to better inform those who are charged by law to make decisions in the public interest.

Without one or more such alternatives, it will be a long struggle to get this line built.

Dickey, a former Army Corps of Engineers planner, represents the Killdeer Mountain Alliance in the federal review of the proposed power line that’s required under the National Historic Preservation Act.