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Build power line in existing corridor

Wyoming's ambitions to become a major exporter of electricity carry with them some negatives along with the positives. One of the negatives is the fact that more power lines are going to crisscross the state. In some cases, that will mean traversing private land whose owners don't want the lines, public land where people don't want to see them for aesthetic reasons, and habitat that sustains a variety of Wyoming's prized wildlife.

Wyoming's ambitions to become a major exporter of electricity -- not just the raw materials that generate power -- carry with them some negatives along with the positives.

One of the negatives is the fact that more power lines are going to crisscross the state. In some cases, that will mean traversing private land whose owners don't want the lines, public land where people don't want to see them for aesthetic reasons, and habitat that sustains a variety of Wyoming's prized wildlife.

The siting of transmission lines, particularly for wind energy power contracts, is the single biggest issue for the state's largest electrical utility, Rocky Mountain Power President Richard Walje said at a power conference in December in Rock Springs.

"Our single biggest challenge is siting transmission lines, and the success kind of depends on irritating the fewest number of people," Walje said.

Based upon public reaction to one of the proposed routes for Rock Mountain Power's planned Gateway West transmission line project, the utility needs to change course. If it wants to irritate the fewest number of people, it should follow an existing transmission corridor that runs from the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Wyoming's ambitions to become a major exporter of electricity -- not just the raw materials that generate power -- carry with them some negatives along with the positives.

One of the negatives is the fact that more power lines are going to crisscross the state. In some cases, that will mean traversing private land whose owners don't want the lines, public land where people don't want to see them for aesthetic reasons, and habitat that sustains a variety of Wyoming's prized wildlife.

The siting of transmission lines, particularly for wind energy power contracts, is the single biggest issue for the state's largest electrical utility, Rocky Mountain Power President Richard Walje said at a power conference in December in Rock Springs.

"Our single biggest challenge is siting transmission lines, and the success kind of depends on irritating the fewest number of people," Walje said.

Based upon public reaction to one of the proposed routes for Rock Mountain Power's planned Gateway West transmission line project, the utility needs to change course. If it wants to irritate the fewest number of people, it should follow an existing transmission corridor that runs from the Jim Bridger Power Plant in Sweetwater County, rather than take a 30-mile segment of the route through the Commissary Ridge area in Lincoln County.

Gateway West is a joint effort between Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power. The companies plan to construct and operate 230- and 500-kilovolt transmission lines from the proposed Windstar substation near the Dave Johnston Power Plant at Glenrock to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho.

The proposed project is composed of 11 transmission line segments with a total length of 1,150 miles across southern Wyoming and southern Idaho. Much of the route crosses federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Several alternative routes are under consideration in a study being conducted by the BLM. While the draft environmental impact statement isn't slated for release until fall, it appears that the Commissary Ridge route will be preferred by both the agency and the companies. It would follow the existing transmission line corridor from the Jim Bridger Power Plant to the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. From there, it would go north of Kemmerer and Opal, across Commissary Ridge and down into Cokeville.

There are a couple of problems with that route.

First of all, it would cut a disruptive path through too much private land on the ridge. People have built a number of rustic, summer homes there, and the presence of a major electrical transmission line would create the very setting the homeowners sought to escape.

Second, environmental groups say the power lines would harm some of the most pristine sub-alpine steppe areas in Lincoln County that are home to wildlife including sage grouse, elk, deer, moose, antelope and bears.

The combination of those concerns, and the fact that Gateway West could follow the existing transmission corridor, should convince Rocky Mountain Power and the BLM to avoid Commissary Ridge. After viewing the area from the air last week, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said the issue is clear from his perspective.

"So much of this country does not have the level of disturbance that the existing corridor does," he said. "For us, it's just logical to follow that existing route."

That's especially important because whatever route is chosen could be used for a number of other transmission lines planned for construction in southwest Wyoming. Wherever possible, utilities should consider using existing corridors before building power lines in other locations.


Source: http://trib.com/news/opinio...

JUN 25 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/26901-build-power-line-in-existing-corridor
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