Options given for power line problem

DELTA — Delta County commissioners are weighing options recently submitted by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association regarding the construction of power lines in airspace near Blake Field Airport.

The 12.9-mile, $21 million project was completed in November and has caused concern for some residents and local pilots who say the power lines pose an unwarranted safety risk.

The lines are linked to a transmission route between Montrose and Grand Junction.

The transmission route runs one-half mile northwest of the Blake Field runway.

Ten of the poles were constructed on a hill that rises 100 feet higher than the runway, and at 50-feet tall they exceed the height limit set by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA has no enforcement authority to make Tri-State change or alter the route to adhere to federal safety standards. That power rests with the Delta County Commission.

The options Tri-State submitted included a plan to reduce the height of the poles, a plan to reroute the poles underground or away from the hill, and a plan to move the route altogether.

Moving the route would force the company to build within a Wilderness Study Area, something Commissioner Bruce Hovde said he personally favors the most.

“To get that done takes an act of Congress. They would have to approve the amount of land needed to move them,” Hovde said.

Hovde said the county has been in communication with the FAA, Tri-State and staff working for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton about the possible route through the Wilderness Study Area.

Barb Sharrow, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management office in Montrose, said a study of the area was submitted to Congress in 1992.

“At that point in time we recommended that that area should not be a wildness study area,” Sharrow said.

“It’s in their (Congress’s) hands.”

Hovde and Sharrow indicated a route through the area could work if the area was decertified as a Wilderness Study Area.

Sharrow said if Congress decertified the area and Tri-State pursued the new route, more environmental study would have to be completed first.

Jeffery Roy, an aviation consultant hired by Tri-State, said in a statement to the county that the company’s first option to lower the height of the poles is “sufficient and should allow them to complete this project and fulfill their obligations of the public of Delta County.”

Tri-State Project Manager Scott Fernau submitted a report to the commission April 14, saying the company’s option to lower the poles and place signal balls and markers on the lines would cost approximately $200,000.

Fernau said the warning lights are slated for completion at the end of this month. The marker balls he described are planned for May.

Fernau said these changes would be completed within two to six months, pending county approval.

Hovde said the county has not decided on a course of action.


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