Building relationships ensures reliability for members

Transmission line crossing road.
Transmission line crossing road on Lake Traverse Reservation.

Strong relationships don’t happen overnight. They are created and built upon over the years through mutual respect, trust, and a common goal. For many years, Basin Electric, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative have nurtured a close relationship in order to provide reliable power to their members.

In the mid-1970s, Basin Electric constructed the Leland Olds Station-to-Watertown 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line across roughly a mile and a half of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. Since then, Basin Electric lineworkers have been maintaining the transmission line across Tribal land, creating a lasting relationship that still exists today.

One of the easements secured for the transmission line was contracted for a 50-year term through the BIA. That contract expired in March 2023, which meant a new easement needed to be acquired for the existing facility. By using the existing right-of-way, Basin Electric avoided the cost of a reroute which helps rate stability and keeps power affordable for members.

While considering next steps, it was determined that to provide long-term, reliable power, the new easement would again need to be for a term of 50 years, which is the maximum term the BIA can grant per federal regulations. In this case, the reservation was the only route and easement pursued because the transmission line already existed.

“Knowing the contract was expiring in 2023, we reached out to the Lake Traverse BIA Realty Office in 2018 to inquire about a new 50-year easement grant and was told it was too early to start the process,” says Mike Murray, Basin Electric director of Property and Right-of-Way. “In August 2022 we really geared up and started to work hard to secure an appraiser to determine the value of the easement.”

Jerry Haas, Basin Electric senior Property and Right-of-Way specialist, said the BIA was great to work with from start to finish. The BIA acknowledged the expiring easement and Basin Electric’s need to pursue a new contract.

From ensuring the maximum 50-year term, to the negotiation of the value of the easement, to the completeness of the right-of-way application, which helped the process move along efficiently, all parties involved appreciated how smoothly the process went. With only a week to spare before the contract expired, Basin Electric received the new signed contract for the easement on March 20, 2023, roughly eight months after the process began.

With the renewal of the 50-year contract comes continued reliability to our members, including Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative, which in turn serves a portion of the Lake Traverse Reservation.

Read more about the Lake Traverse easement and the process of renewing a 50-year contract in Easement brings continued long-term power and reliability to members in the 2024 Winter issue of Basin Today.

Related Videos