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Plans in works for possible power line running from Spearville to Hays to Nebraska

It will be November before a final decision is made, but at least two companies have indicated an interest in building a transmission line that would pass near Hays.

One of those companies – ITC Great Plains – officially is on record that it would like to build the line, which would run from Spearville to the Knoll substation just northwest of Hays and then to Axtell, Neb., just south of Kearney.

While it’s significant that the line would come close to Hays, it’s also the first line that a relatively new state agency – on its own accord – has proposed building if no private company steps forward.

The Kansas Electric Transmission Authority earlier this month announced its 90-day call for proposals for construction of the transmission line.

Under state law, if no one steps up, the agency could proceed with construction on its own accord.

State Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington, a member of the committee, said ITC-Great Plains has said it wants to build the line.

“It appears KETA will not be building it,” Lee said, “which is fantastic because we don’t want to manage a facility.”

It’s also significant ITC-Great Plains wants to build the line because that Topeka-based company also wants to build the north half of what has been dubbed the X-Plan – a line that will run from Spearville to Comanche County, where a switchyard will be constructed, and then extend the line to Wichita.

All that’s significant because, while they are separate projects, the transmission lines can open up pathways for electricity from other parts of the country, and from other generating facilities.

KETA was created about 18 months ago by the Kansas Legislature in an effort to improve and expand the state’s electric transmission capability. It is part of the state’s effort to make areas in western Kansas more attractive to wind-energy developers, who need the transmission lines to move electricity.

That is part of the reason why four of the seven members of the commission hail from the western part of the state. The board also includes Earnest Lehman, who is vice chairman. Lehman, who did not return a phone call for comment, also is president and general manager of Midwest Energy.

Both the X-plan and the Spearville-Hays-Axtell lines have been identified by the Southwest Power Pool, the traffic cop of electricity in Kansas and parts of seven other states, as critical.

Lee said she is happy to have ITC-Great Plains stepping forward to build the line.

“All they do is build transmission lines,” she said.

But under KETA rules, there is a 90-day period that will allow other companies to step forward and ask to build the line. Lee said at least one other company has expressed an interest.

For ITC-Great Plains, the interest is formal, said Kimberly Gencur, vice president for government affairs and community relations. Her company is a subsidiary of ITC Holdings, a Michigan-based company.

“It’s the first project that KETA has put forward so they’re going to work through that process,” Gencur said of the steps that will follow the agency’s decision that the Spearville-Hays-Axtell line is needed.

A formal announcement on who will build the line will be forthcoming in November, Lee said.

The line will be capable of carrying 345,000 volts of electricity and will allow for more energy to flow into the area.

It’s uncertain how long it might take for the line to be constructed, considering KETA never has gone through the process before.

But, Lee said, if by 2010, “if it’s gotten started, we’d feel good about it.”

That could mean construction could be complete as soon as a year later.

By Mike Corn

Hays Daily News

22 August 2007