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Bulk Transmission Site Considerations Overview (2)

Preliminary site selection for the development of a bulk transmission project requires consideration of a number of different factors associated with the location proposed for development. The developer should consider the project site location in terms of:
  • Pre-existing land uses that may restrict or inhibit project development;
  • Land access requirements;
  • Proximity to existing transmission lines and right-of-ways;
  • Proximity to existing land and highway right-of-ways;
  • Transmission siting and interconnection requirements;
  • Aesthetic and recreational resources at, and near the proposed site location that may be impacted by project development;
  • Cultural and environmental resources at, and near, the proposed site location that may be impacted by project development, including:
    • cultural resources at, and near, the proposed site location;
    • water resources at, and near, the proposed site location;
    • ecological and geological resources at, and near, the proposed site location; and
    • biological resources at, and near, the proposed site location.


Site Considerations Overview Process

2.1 to 2.2 – Consider Project Location Restrictions

The developer should consider whether the proposed project site location has pre-existing land use restrictions. If the land being considered is managed by a federal or state agency there may be certain restrictions limiting what the land can be used for.

Statutory or regulatory limitations require that certain lands be excluded from consideration for development. These lands generally include U.S. National Monument lands, federally designated Wilderness Areas, and U.S. Forest Service primitive areas. Before substantial investments, a developer should research whether a proposed site or area is available for development. Federal agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provide guidance on federal exclusions and site-specific stipulations to protect environmental resources.

Development may be restricted on a site for a variety of reasons, including:

  • National park, monument, lakeshore, parkway, battlefield, or recreational area;
  • National wildlife refuge, game preserve, fish hatchery;
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers;
  • Wilderness area or wilderness study area;
  • Indian or military reservation;
  • Cultural and historic value;
  • Recreational, geologic, wildlife, or scenic value;
  • Fish presence value;
  • Threatened and endangered species;
  • Impacts to military operations;
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund areas; or
  • Urban park and recreation recovery lands.

Under Executive Order 11988, each federal agency is also required to take action to reduce the risk of flood loss, to minimize the impact of floods on human safety, health, and welfare, and to restore and preserve the values of floodplains. If a proposed project is located within a floodplain, then federal agencies are required to take specific actions during environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). For example, the federal agency will be required to consider alternatives to avoid adverse effects and incompatible development in floodplains areas.

Each BLM and USFS field office has a Land Use Management Plan outlining site-specific exclusion information and stipulations for mitigation of environmental concerns. For more information on common pre-existing land use restrictions, see:

Pre-Existing Land Use Assessment Overview: 13


Resources to Determine Land Use Limitations

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has developed the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) which allows developers to access an online system of maps displaying crucial wildlife habitat and corridors across the western United States. The developer will be able to make an initial determination as to whether the proposed project will interfere with a wildlife area. CHAT is designed to reduce conflicts during the development process and ensure the protection of wildlife through incorporating such considerations in the land use decision-making process.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense (DOD) has developed the Renewable Energy and Defense Geospatial Database (READ-Database) to provide Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to assist developers in choosing an appropriate site for their renewable energy project. The READ-Database highlights possible project locations, which are unlikely to interfere with military activities, and have the fewest environmental conflicts. To access the READ-Database, developers must submit a request to the NRDC on their website.



2.3 to 2.4 – Consider Land Access Requirements and Proximity to Existing Right-of-Ways

Land access is a key consideration for a bulk transmission project and ancillary project activities (e.g., access roads, highway encroachments, etc.) A bulk transmission project will likely require access to, over, or under a combination of federal, state, local, tribal, and private land. The developer should consider the project’s location in terms of proximity to existing transmission, land, and highway right-of-ways for transmission development and what approvals are required. Generally, to gain access to federal, state, local, or tribal land, the developer will need to obtain a right-of-way, lease, or other use authorization. For access to private land, the developer must, generally, buy the land or negotiate an easement with the private landowner.

For more information on land access requirements, see:

Land Access Overview: 3

2.5 to 2.6 – Consider Siting and Interconnection Requirements

The developer should also consider the preliminary site location in terms of transmission siting and interconnection requirements. The developer should consider the site locations proximity to existing transmission lines and interconnections and what approvals will be required. For more information, see:

Transmission Siting and Interconnection: 8

2.7 to 2.9 – Review Applicable Federal, State, and Local Development Requirements

When considering a site for development, a developer should review the approvals that may be required for development at the proposed site location. For instances, the developer should consider:

  • Aesthetic and recreational resources at, and near the proposed site location that may be impacted by project development;
  • Cultural and environmental resources at, and near, the proposed site location that may be impacted by project development, including:
    • cultural resources at, and near, the proposed site location;
    • water resources at, and near, the proposed site location;
    • ecological and geological resources at, and near, the proposed site location; and
    • biological resources at, and near, the proposed site location.

Reviewing the questions considered during the on-site evaluation would be useful in identifying potential federal, state, and local development approvals. For more information, see:

On-Site Evaluation Overview: 10

In addition, the developer should consider the construction and transportation permits that may be required for development. For more information, see:

Construction and Transportation Permits Overview: 6

2.10 to 2.11 – Consider Environmental Review

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 requires Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their proposed action, and any reasonable alternatives, before deciding whether and in what form to take an action.

The NEPA process is often the most time consuming process in permitting a project site. It is often required for multiple phases of the project, so it is a good idea to list the phases early on in project development so that multiple phases may be addressed in one EA/EIS.

In addition, most states have passed state environmental laws and regulations. Some states have an all-encompassing environmental review process such as the California Environmental Quality Act, while other states consider only certain issues.

For more information on federal and state environmental reviews, see:

Environmental Review Overview: 9

2.12 – Contact Lead Agency

An important early step in project development is determining which agency (or agencies) is most central to the project. A lead agency is the public agency that has the principal responsibility for approving a project. Lead agency determination is affected by surface management (federal, tribal, state, or private) or land/mineral rights ownership. In some jurisdictions there is a single agency officially designated as the lead agency for the entire project. In other circumstances, there is no single, dominant agency, while in others an agency may only be the lead on certain matters (e.g. environmental issues) or project phases.

The permitting process differs depending on the lead agency, so scheduling a meeting early in the development process is important. This meeting should precede any filings of applications and permits, since requirements obtained in a pre-filing meeting will heavily set the overall direction and timing of the project. The lead agency will often work directly with other coordinating or participating agencies; when this occurs developers are not allowed to interact with a coordinating agency directly. It may take one to two years between a pre-filing meeting with the lead agency and formally submitting permitting documents to that agency.







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