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Power plan calls for 1,000 miles of lines

El Paso County commissioners will hear plans today for a major power transmission project that will sweep the southeastern corner of the county.

The Eastern Plains Transmission Project aims at constructing 1,000 miles of power lines reaching as tall as 14 stories that could eventually link power on Colorado’s eastern plains to southwestern Kansas.

It would cut across some of the best wind-energy generation sites in the state, project managers say, and have the capacity for future conversion to such renewable energies.

Growth east of Colorado Springs spurred demand for such lines, which will be connected by four new substations and which are the “biggest they make,” said Carl Schueler, El Paso County’s longrange planning division manager.

While the largest power lines in the state transmit 345 kilovolts, the new lines will transmit 500 kilovolts.

Residents in the southeastern portion of El Paso County will be affected, with the lines cutting northeast toward Limon.

The project is the undertaking of the Western Area Power Administration, a federal hydropower agency, and power wholesaler Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

Tri-State’s main member in the area, Mountain View Electric Association, has 32,000 customers in El Paso County, said Lee Boughey, a Tri-State spokesman.

Estimated to cost $900 million, the three-year construction process could begin as early as 2009, pending an environmental impact analysis.

WAPA’s involvement means county and local government officials will not have a say in the project’s final approval. But today’s meeting with county commissioners is part of project managers’ federally mandated effort to gather public reaction.

Project managers have held several public meetings, most recently June 20 in Rush.

“Nobody wants a transmission line in their backyard,” Randy Wilkerson, WAPA’s spokesman, said of the main concern expressed at the meetings.

Plans for the project started in December 2006, when Tri-State approached WAPA in collaborating on the project.

WAPA has been successful in building similar projects in California and Oregon, Wilkerson said.

WAPA will oversee the project’s planning and construction, and Tri-State will take over the operation once it is online.

In exchange, WAPA will be able to tap into the lines and provide cheaper service to its municipal hydropower customers on the eastern plains such as Fountain, Burlington, Lamar and La Junta.

Today’s presentation will be held during a commission work session scheduled to convene after a regular meeting, which will start at 9 a.m. at the County Office Building, 27 E. Vermijo Ave., in the Third Floor Hearing Room.

By Carlyn Ray Mitchell

The Gazette

18 July 2007