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Silver Mountain blows up astorm

by Carol Dunn

LA VETA- At a meeting October 27 at the La Veta Community Center, over 80 people heard about various wind energy development scenarios that face Huerfano County.  “Huerfano County has two critically important resources, wind and scenic beauty,” said Sam Law, a La Veta area resident who led the meeting.  “Can we benefit from both of these assets and not have to choose between them?” she asked.  Law told the crowd that, while property values in other parts of Colorado have dropped, those in Huerfano County remain strong, in part because of the area’s unsullied scenic beauty.  She characterized the western part of the County as being like Eden. 

    Law told the crowd that wind energy development is coming, and it is up to area residents to get accurate information, find a united strategy if possible, leverage their combined voices, and benefit from the efforts that many people have invested so far.  Several groups of concerned citizens have been studying the decisions that will soon face local government officials.  One of those decisions is whether to allow wind development to encroach on lands west of I-25.  The 1999 Huerfano County Land Development Guide mentions solar energy development, but doesn’t provide much guidance on other alternative energy sources, and Law said her citizens’ group decided to focus public input on this issue first.  The first priority the group identified was to keep wind farm development east of Walsenburg, thus the group’s slogan, “East of Eden.”  Issues to be addressed later include whether transmission lines should be permitted and where those lines might be located.  Currently RES has mapped two routes for transmission lines to serve the proposed Silver Mountain wind farm, both of them originating in Walsenburg and located north of Highway 160.  The “north” route arcs north around Mount Mestas, while the “south” route dips toward the Town of La Veta before its ascent to La Veta pass.  Either route would have a 100-foot clear-cut corridor for safety, but might actually be wider to allow an easement for maintenance and access.

    On Nov. 17, Huerfano County Planning & Zoning will hold a public hearing at the Walsenburg Community Center at 2 pm to hear testimony on the RES application for the Silver Mountain wind farm.  Law suggested that a thousand people show up at the meeting and express their opinion, whether they be pro or con.  After its Nov. 24 meeting, Planning & Zoning will make a recommendation to the County Commissioners, who will consider the application at their Dec. 2 meeting.  La Veta resident and Mayor Pro-Tem Dawn Blanken suggested that the Commissioners may be wise to issue a moratorium on further wind development applications until the new Land Use Guide is finished and regulatory guidance has been developed with public input.

    On Nov. 9 from 6-9 pm, the Public Utilities Commission will hold a hearing at the Walsenburg Community Center to gather public input about noise or electromagnetic fields in relation to power transmission lines.  Law urged a thousand people to attend that meeting also.  “We have to show them we care,” she said.