By Susan Simons
Southern Colorado Transmission Improvements is the new name for the transmission line project proposed by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Xcel Energy. The new 230-kilowatt, 140-mile line would travel from Calumet substation to be constructed north of Walsenburg to Pueblo in the north and across La Veta pass west to Alamosa.
Public scoping meetings were held in August 2009 and public comments were taken until September 21. The project website has announced that route refinements have been made based on those public comments and field and aerial surveys.
A Route Refinement PDF (November 2009) can be downloaded which divides the project map of August 2009 into nine areas and explains the reasons for route changes in each of the nine areas. The best way to view this PDF is to print it. At the same website, near the bottom, the project map for November 2009 is available which shows the remaining alternative routes. To view enlarged sections of this map, it is necessary to click on the section. The website address is as follows: http://engage.edaw.com/socotransmission/map.
A separate update, the Southern Colorado Transmission project e-Update, explains that the project is going through a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review because Tri-State has requested funding from Rural Utilities Service (RUS). In a NEPA review, there can be three levels of analysis required, and RUS will ask for the most detailed evaluation, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
In this same email, articles from the Denver Post and Denver Business Journal are included which give updates on arguments being presented for and against the project before the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC is involved because utilities must get the authority from the PUC “to build and own certain major electricity infrastructure projects in Colorado.” The PUC will decide if there is a genuine public need and if the project is in the public interest. The PUC held a public hearing in Walsenburg Mon. Nov. 9 to hear public comments on the project (see related story in this issue).
The proposed alternative routes for the transmission line west of La Veta Pass will go through the Trinchera Ranch, which is owned by Louis Bacon since his purchase of it from the Forbes family in 2007. According to the Denver Post, Trinchera Ranch has filed testimony with the PUC suggesting alternatives to the transmission line routes, including building a 230-kilovolt line north over Poncha Pass close to the existing and only power line into the San Luis Valley.
According to the Denver Business Journal, Bacon has hired several attorneys, an engineering firm to study alternative routes, and a public relations firm. Bacon wants to adhere to the conservation and wildlife legacy established by the Forbes family, and he has been praised by the Colorado Division of Wildlife which adopted a resolution in 2008 to support his efforts. The Wilderness Society is also encouraging the Southern Colorado Transmission project to research alternative routes.