BLM presents preferred route for TransWest transmission line

— The Bureau of Land Management presented its preferred route for a more than 700-mile TransWest transmission line to Moffat County in a meeting Friday. The line would be cutting through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada to transmit renewable energy to the Southwest.

TransWest Director of Communications Kara Choquette said the line could bring anywhere from $600,000 to $900,000 in property tax revenue to Moffat County.

“You have to pay on all the infrastructure,” she said.

But she said that it could create about 700 to 1,000 jobs across the West at the peak of building.

“In general, what’s of interest would be the jobs created,” she said.

But they still are in the planning stages. Part of that planning means finding a route that will appeal to many different types of people, from landowners to conservationists to local leaders.

Sharon Knowlton, BLM project manager based out of the Cheyenne, Wyo., office, said she wants to get public feedback.

“We’re showing folks where the agency prefers (the transmission line) to go,” she said.

Craig City Councilman Ray Beck said he is confident TransWest has done a good job and said he looks forward to the business it will bring to Craig.

“I think they put a lot of thought and work and studying into it,” he said.

There have been concerns about how the line could affect sage grouse habitat, and representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife have voiced their preferences.

Michael Warren, energy liaison for the Northwest region of Parks and Wildlife, said the agency's stance was that the line should go north of U.S. Highway 40 when it crosses Deerlodge Road near the entrance of Dinosaur National Monument.

“That’s what we’ll support,” he said.

Misti Sporer, a biologist with West Area Power, said they worked to make sure the lines would go through sage grouse avoidance areas instead of sage grouse exclusion areas, making sure there would be minimal impact. But she also said transmission lines might not be disruptive to the birds anyway.

“There’s not direct evidence that they avoid transmission structures,” she said.

She said it’s been a challenge to work with different communities to find the right avenue for the transmission line.

“Balancing resource needs — (like the) needs of the public, the needs of land owners and the needs of wildlife — it’s been the biggest struggle but the biggest joy,” Sporer said.

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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