Tri-State's $46.5M grant won't impact Craig Station

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Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has been approved to receive a federal loan of nearly $46.5 million, but it should have little effect on the company's Craig Station and its employees, a company spokesman said.

Jim Van Someren said the loan, available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, is one of Tri-State's "main sources of money."

"It's earmarked for various transmission projects but it's nothing of significance," he said. "It's certainly a regular thing for us."

According to a report from the government agency, Tri-State's loan represented a portion of a total $385 million in loans approved Tuesday in an effort to add 4,300 more miles of new electric lines in 16 states. New infrastructure built with the help of the loans should benefit roughly 63,000 customers. Tri-State is an electrical generation and transmission cooperative that provides power to other distribution points in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

"Expansion of rural infrastructure is a first step in opening the door for expanded rural economic development and improved quality of life for rural residents," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said in a written release.

The loans will include 25 distribution projects and three generation and transmission ventures, the department said.

It provides financing for new substations and other plant upgrades which will create or save an estimated of about 9,000 jobs, the USDA said.

A current two-week outage project at the Craig Station Power Plant has created about 40 jobs for workers subcontracted by Casey Industrial, said Bill Nettles, hiring supervisor.

The outage is part of routine maintenance on the plant. Workers will also install upgraded pollution control equipment for Unit 1 and Unit 2 during the outage.

People travel from as far as Arizona and Denver to land the temporary jobs that offer long hours but overtime pay, Nettles said.

Those who find temporary work with the local power plant can be happy to land employment, he said.

"The ones who really need a job very often get excited," Nettles said. "The other ones who know the work ahead of time know that it's going to be a lot of work."

Workers for Casey Industrial put in 12-hour shifts then get 12 hours off, Nettles said. Wages range from about $10 an hour to more than $20 an hour. The company's work on the outage is about a quarter of the way finished, Nettles said.

"For most people who are unemployed or underemployed they are thankful to have the opportunity," he said.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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