The preliminary route favored by federal regulators for a proposed $3 billion power line project to carry Wyoming wind power to the U.S. Southwest would create a new utility corridor through south-central Wyoming.
The new corridor proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management may satisfy local residents who consider the power line and its large supporting structures a potential eyesore but is raising concern from conservationists about traversing currently undisturbed wildlife habitat and land.
TransWest Express LLC, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Corp., wants to string more than 700 miles of power line to provide power generated mostly from renewable wind energy sources in Wyoming to some 1.8 million homes in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. The line would run through parts of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Nevada.
The BLM last week released a draft environmental study of the proposed routes of the line, which would begin at Sinclair and end near Boulder City, Nev.
In the draft report, the BLM offered its preliminary preferred route that mostly follows the route suggested by TransWest but deviates in some areas for various reasons, such as trying to avoid certain plant and wildlife species habitat and areas with historic value.
Under TransWest’s proposal, the line would cover about 90 miles in Wyoming. The BLM’s proposed changes would increase that to 107 miles.
BLM project manager Sharon Knowlton said the BLM is not settled on any route and continues to analyze all possible routes.
The route the BLM is suggesting would create about 15 miles of new utility corridor in southwest Carbon County.
Leo Chapman, chairman of the Carbon County Commission, said area residents are concerned about the sight of 180-foot tall support towers from their homes and from Wyoming Highway 789, which runs north to south from Creston Junction to Baggs.
“That mattered to us, trying to keep it out of sight,” Chapman said.
A separate route favored by the commission stayed well away from Highway 789 by angling through remote areas into southeast Sweetwater County. The BLM has proposed staying closer to Highway 789, which already has much smaller power lines alongside.
In order to lessen its view from the highway, the BLM proposal would place the line at least several miles west of the highway and behind some low hills.
Duane Short, wild species program director with the Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, said he hasn’t studied the BLM proposal but there’s no good reason to forge a new corridor on undisturbed land when a corridor with a highway and other power infrastructure already exists nearby.
The BLM is taking public comment on the power line proposal through Sept. 30.