Protest period on construction of transmission lines ending | CraigDailyPress.com

Protest period on construction of transmission lines ending

Patrick Kelly

On Monday, the public protest period regarding the construction of a power line that would cut through Moffat County comes to a close.

The end of this protest period coincides with a significant development in the case of the greater sage grouse and the federal government’s general approach to conservation across the U.S. The proposed transmission line route would cut through and near sage grouse habitat in Moffat County.

The TransWest Express Transmission Project entails constructing 730 miles of transmission infrastructure with the capacity to deliver approximately 3,000 megawatts of electric power from renewable or other non-renewable energy resources in south-central Wyoming to southern Nevada.

The direct-current power line would run through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada on land owned by four separate federal entities, various state agencies, private owners and Native American tribes.

Before TransWest Express, LLC. can begin construction, an Environmental Impact Statement must be conducted as outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act in order to advise the Department of the Interior as to whether planned development of federal land abides by federal law.

Part of the process for creating a satisfactory EIS is providing sufficient opportunity for public comment.

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Beverly Gorny, public affairs specialist at the Bureau of Land Management, said at this point they do not know what, if any, protests will be presented but a finalized document is expected this fall.

So far, conservationists and representatives of Moffat County have expressed negative opinions regarding the route of the transmission line.

"There's no proposed action in the entire document, simply a regurgitation of 'this is the preferred route.' It's not justifying why from an environmental standpoint," said Conservation Colorado's West Slope Advocacy Director Luke Schafer.

The BLM originally designated Colorado Highway 13 as an energy corridor for future transmission projects like this one, according to Shafer, who said the EIS offered no explanation why a different route through relatively undisturbed terrain was selected.

Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe voiced concerns about the project's potential to consume the majority of Moffat County's surface disturbance limit to sage grouse habitat – a shifting figure dependent on the conclusion of the sage grouse saga.

"The disturbance cap situation, I know that's in limbo right now," Grobe said.

The EIS was produced by the Bureau of Land Management and Western Area Power Administration, one of four power-marketing administrations within the U.S. Department of Energy.

TransWest Express, LLC. will be responsible for the construction of the transmission line if approved.

According to a news release from TransWest, the corporation will pay approximately $636,000 to $915,000 in property taxes in Moffat County in the first tax year after the project is completed.