Moffat County power line routes considered
June 15, 2010
At a glance
• Bureau of Land Management has received applications for two power transmission line project.
• BLM managers said Moffat County could be in the path of the power lines.
• The Gateway South power line is a 500-kilovolt alternating current transmission line that entails about 750 miles.
• The TransWest Express project is a 600-kilovolt direct current line about 750 miles long.
• Both lines start in south central Wyoming and end near Las Vegas.
• An environmental study, public meetings and other factors will shape the final direction of the projects.
• Both projects could get approval from the BLM in the next few years.
The Bureau of Land Management has received two applications for power transmission line projects that could run through portions of Moffat County.
If approved, both projects would start in south central Wyoming and end near Las Vegas.
The proposed Gateway South line is a proposed 500-kilovolt alternating current transmission line that will include about 750 miles of transmission line, said Tamara Gertsch, BLM national project manager in charge of the Gateway South project.
The TransWest Express project is a 600-kilovolt direct current line, which will include about 750 miles of transmission lines, said Sharon Knowlton, BLM national project manager for the TransWest Express project.
Both projects are still in the early stages of development and the BLM is also considering several alternate routes.
Rocky Mountain Power, of Salt Lake City, is applying for the Gateway South project and Gertsch estimated the BLM could approve the project in three or four years.
"It's reasonable to think that there may be an alternative (route) that runs through Moffat County," she said.
TransWest Express LLC, of Denver, applied for a right-of-way grant for the second project, and Knowlton said she estimated the BLM could approve the project in about four years.
Knowlton said TransWest proposed a route crossing part of Moffat County, but there are also several alternative routes being considered.
Before any route is finalized, the BLM develops several alternative transmission line routes for both projects.
As part of the approval process, the alternate routes will receive several years of public input, which may change the direction of the final route, Gertsch said.
"What we are not ready to disclose yet is, until we go to public scoping, is how those alternatives might be laid out because we are working with all of our cooperating agencies … to develop what might be an appropriate bundle of alternatives," she said.
In each project, the BLM will host several meetings to foster feedback and concerns from residents and stakeholders along the project route, she said.
"It's a very long process," Gertsch said. "It's a lot of ground covered from one end to the other and a lot of people will be involved. There will be a lot of meetings and negotiations along the way."
Gertsch said the BLM is currently in the process of negotiating with cooperative agencies and local governments including counties along the route of the transmission line, the U.S. forest, park and fish and wildlife services.
The BLM will also conduct an environmental impact study, which could shape the path the transmission lines take.
The study, which could take several years, will look at various area concerns including biological, cultural, visual, land use, economic, water, and soil issues, Gertsch said.
The study will also take into consideration the greater sage grouse, which recently received a "warranted but precluded" listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Gertsch said the environmental impact a transmission line has varies depending on its location.
She said the BLM would take into consideration placing the lines along existing utility corridors such as other transmission lines or natural gas pipelines.
"You try and take advantage, if you can, of using existing areas that have already been altered for transmission," she said.
Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources director, said the county would participate with the BLM as a cooperating agency.
"As a county we will be looking at that from a natural resource standpoint as well as a social standpoint," he said. "Of course, natural resources would be things like sage grouse and from a social standpoint, would be private property. We'll have to see where they end up."
Comstock said the county is interested in hearing feedback from residents as the project is developed, although the BLM will be organizing the meetings during its environmental impact study.