Out-of-state power company considers routing line through northwest Colorado

An out-of-state power company is considering routing a high-voltage transmission line through northwest Colorado, prompting a Garfield County commissioner to question what local residents would have to gain from the project.

The answer, says Rocky Mountain Power, is increased stability of the region’s electrical transmission grid.

“We’re tied at the hip,” Rod Fisher, a community relations director for the utility, told Garfield County commissioners this week.

Rocky Mountain Power operates in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho and is a division of PacifiCorp, which also owns Pacific Power, a utility serving the Northwest.

PacifiCorp is proposing adding more than 1,900 miles of new transmission lines to meet increasing demand, at an estimated cost of $6 billion in today’s dollars, and with major segments being completed by 2014.

Part of its initiative includes building a 500-kilovolt line from Wyoming through Utah and into southern Nevada. One possibility is to go through northwest Colorado, including through western Garfield County. The line would require towers 160 feet to 190 feet high and a right of way of 300 feet to 350 feet.

Fisher said Rocky Mountain Power might have a better idea where corridors could be located later this year, after it works with the Bureau of Land Management to develop a draft proposal
for environmental review.

He said if the utility pursues the northwest Colorado route, it might be back before Garfield County to seek permits in a couple of years, once BLM permission is obtained.

County Commissioner Tresi Houpt said people living in western Garfield County already are making some sacrifices on behalf of natural gas development occurring around them, and may wonder what benefit there would be to having a high-voltage line passing through the area.

“It seems to me that when you enter into a state where you don’t supply any resources, it’s a bit intrusive,” she said.

In an interview, Rocky Mountain Power spokeswoman Margaret Oler said such a project would provide property taxes for counties, and economic benefits during construction. But by far the biggest benefit, even to people who aren’t directly served by the utility, is the increased reliability the project would bring to the region’s overall electric grid, she said.

“None of us is an island by ourselves on the electrical services grid at all. We all are interconnected,” Oler said.

She said PacifiCorp’s Energy Gateway project will be the first major addition to the region’s electrical transmission system in more than two decades. The company also sees the project as a way to tap abundant renewable energy sources in the West, such as wind power.


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