The Energy Blend: Transmission line routed through Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

The Energy Blend: Transmission line routed through Moffat County

Patrick Kelly

The proposed route for the TransWest Express Transmission Express Transmission Project shows the line cutting about 90 miles through Moffat County — across approximately 63 miles of Bureau of Land Management Land, 15 miles of private land and 13 miles of state land — to reach a terminal just south of Las Vegas and deliver wind-generated electricity from Wyoming.

The planned transmission line project that has been in development for nearly a decade is nearing the end of the planning phase and is poised to be an important source of income for the county.

On its 730-mile route from a wind farm in Wyoming to a terminal just south of Las Vegas, the 600-kilovolt, direct-current TransWest Express Transmission ProjectTransWest Express Transmission Project makes a 90-mile cut through Moffat County. makes a 90-mile cut through Moffat County.

TransWest Express Transmission Project makes a 90-mile cut through Moffat County.

Garry Miller, vice president of land and environmental affairs for TransWest Express, said the line could bring between $600,000 and $900,000 in property tax revenue to Moffat County.

The line would start at wind farm outside of Rawlins and deliver 3,000 megawatts of capacity into the southwest region, which includes southern California, southern Nevada and parts of Arizona.

Miller said the project was first conceived back around 2004 and his company took over development and asked the Bureau of Land Management to start the environmental processenvironmental process in 2008. in 2008.

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environmental process in 2008.

In January 2011, BLM began public scoping for an environmental impact statement (EIS) and issued its notice of intent.

The draft EIS was issued in July 2013 and was finalized by April 2015.

Miller said throughout the process, the BLM has been very thorough with its assessments and that is why the project has been in development for so long.

"The BLM really has looked at all of the resources in quite a bit of detail," he said.

Despite the fact that the line will be caring electricity generated from a renewable source, the environmental studies were as rigorous as always.

"There have been no shortcuts," Miller said.

Miller said the transmission line probably could have been much further along if it wasn't for all the work done to take into account greater sage grouse habitat.

"A lot of time was spent looking at sage grouse and the avoidance and minimization of impact to grouse habitat," he said.

Also, there was an issue with finding a route through the county. The proposed routeThe proposed route comes down from Wyoming along Colorado Highway 13 and threads a needle through state land north of Highway 40 before continuing west to Utah. comes down from Wyoming along Colorado Highway 13 and threads a needle through state land north of Highway 40 before continuing west to Utah.

The proposed route comes down from Wyoming along Colorado Highway 13 and threads a needle through state land north of Highway 40 before continuing west to Utah.

The small parcel of land was the only area where the line could come through the county because of issues with an access road to Dinosaur National Monument that could not be crossed.

"It's a stupid highway is what it is, and they're treating it is as if it's monument land," Moffat County Natural Resource Director Jeff Comstock said.

Comstock said the National Park Service wouldn't budge on allowing the line to cross its road, and the proposed line is a result.

"They threw a fit and wouldn't let it happen," he said.

With a proposed route in place, Miller said he is expecting a decision on approval from BLM and the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) by the end of the year.

WAPA has been involved in the transmission project's environmental process and overall development since 2009 through its Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP).

"The TIP program is really a great program that is looking to get the right infrastructure and interconnect the renewables that we need in the west," WAPA public affairs specialist Jen Neville said. "This is one of those great projects to work on."

If the line is eventually constructed, WAPA is entitled to 50 percent ownership and will have to decide what its level of participation will be post-development.

"We're assessing through market and financial analysis what our ownership would be in that project," Neville said.

WAPA, as part of the Department of Energy, would not pay taxes on its share of the line and if they take a lesser interest the tax revenue paid by TransWest would go up.

"It's dependent on a lot of factors," Miller said. "Market conditions and such."

There would also be a bit of an economic boom while the line is constructed, but it wouldn't be too notable, Comstock said.

"There will be a small time period during construction that we will benefit economically but it's not like a power plant," he said.

Another power line, Gateway South Transmission Line, is also being considered for approval by the BLM and its route would be collocated with the TransWest Express line. An environmental impact statement was released in May 2015, and the line faced many of the same planning challenges as the TransWest line but is anticipated to bring the same economic benefits to Moffat County.

Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.