New Power Grid Would Tie Kansas, Colorado: Public Views Sought on Estimated $8 Million to $1 Billion Project
Sep 15, 2006 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Anthony A. Mestas, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.
Lamar - Officials from two power suppliers wanting to construct 1,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and new substations in Colorado and Kansas met with residents Wednesday to discuss the proposed project.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association have signed an agreement with the Western Area Power Administration to develop the Eastern Plains Transmission Project, under which the two power suppliers will work together to construct new high-voltage transmission lines and a number of new or expanded substations in eastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas.
Officials say the project may cost from $8 million to $1 billion.
The development of the new facilities will assist both Tri-State and Western in meeting their respective contractual obligations while also enhancing power delivery system reliability in the region, relieving existing constraints and providing opportunities for additional interconnections to other parties in the area.
Lee Boughey, public relations manager for Tri-State, and Randy Wilkerson, public affairs specialist for Western, were in Lamar on Wednesday for one of 10 scoping meetings designed to gather input from communities affected by the proposed project.
"We put these scoping meetings together in order to allow the public to learn about the project and make comments - it helps us because Western and Tri-State are looking for issues that need to be studied in Western's environmental impact study," Boughey said.
Wilkerson said Western is preparing an environmental impact statement to ensure that public input and environmental effects are considered in its decision to participate in the project.
The EIS will address the construction, operation and maintenance of the transmission lines and other facilities. In addition, the EIS will address expansions of existing substations and construction of new substations, access roads, and fiber-optic communication facilities.
"We are in the scoping phase of the environmental assessment right now. We are seeking input now from the public - we want to know what issues the people see and also what we need to address in our impact statement," Wilkerson said.
The project includes about 1,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and related facilities in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, including: Fifteen new high-voltage transmission lines. Four new substations. Eight expanded or upgraded substations. Fiber optic communication facilities.
The two power suppliers say that a specific route for the transmission lines has not been set.
Alternative corridors for the transmission lines were detailed on scores of large maps set up in a meeting room at the Lamar Community building Wednesday.
"Landowners can come in and look at many maps of our alternative corridors and note land use issues and their concerns and help us make better decisions as we look to set the project," Boughey said.
"These are preliminary alternatives, they are not set in stone," Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said that Western and Tri-State will refine the routes based on public input.
According to a conceptual map of the proposed project, there will be a line running from a substation near Garden City, Kan., to a substation in Lamar. The map also shows a line from the Lamar substation to a substation in Boone. From there a line would run to the Midway Substation between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, then to the Limon area.
Tri-State, which is a wholesale power supplier owned by the 44 electric cooperatives it serves including one in Lamar, will own and operate most of the project's facilities. The company also will build new substations and expand existing substations for the project.
Tri-State generates and transmits electricity to its member cooperative systems throughout a 250,000 square-mile service territory across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming serving more than 1.2 million customers. The company purchases federal hydropower from Western on behalf of Tri-State's cooperative system, which collectively is one of Western's largest customers.
Western, which is one of four power marketing administrations in the U.S. Department of Energy whose role is to market and transmit electricity from federally owned and operated multi-use water projects, will be responsible for construction planning and management of the project.
Western markets and delivers reliable, cost-based hydroelectric power and related services to cities and towns, cooperatives, irrigation districts, and American Indian tribes in 15 Western States including Colorado and Kansas. Wilkerson said Western currently lacks adequate transmission capability in Southeastern Colorado to serve its customers directly.
"This project will help us get the power to our customers down here. It will provide us a more reliable way to provide power," Wilkerson said.
There will be another round of scoping meetings in December. A three-year construction period is scheduled to start in 2008, with the facilities in place and operational in 2011.
"We get a better project when people give us comments," Wilkerson said.
For more information on the project or to make comments regarding transmission line corridors, call 888-826-4710 or visit www.wapa.gov/transmission/eptp.htm .
Copyright (c) 2006, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.