BLM Releases Draft EA on Montrose-Nucla-Cahone Transmission Project
Rebuild of 80-Mile Line Will Support Regional Growth, Boost Grid Reliability
- Tri-State’s Preferred Alternative Will Promote Safety, Minimize Impacts on Grouse Habitat
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., a wholesale power supplier owned by 44 member electric cooperatives and public power districts, said today that it is encouraging the public to review a recently-released federal environmental analysis of the proposed Montrose-Nucla-Cahone (MNC) Transmission Upgrade Project. The company is also urging interested stakeholders to take advantage of a 30-day public comment period by expressing support for the utility’s preferred alternative for rebuilding the transmission line.
Tri-State is proposing to rebuild and increase the capacity of the 80-mile MNC line that serves communities across southwestern Colorado, not only to replace aging infrastructure and increase grid reliability, but also to help meet new electricity demand. The existing 115 kilovolt (kV) line, in place for almost 60 years, will be replaced by a new 230 kV line and supported by a new substation and upgrades at two existing substations. The project will also replace fiber optic cable that is located on the existing line to ensure continued reliable emergency communications and broadband service for the region.
According to Tri-State Senior Vice President of Transmission Joel Bladow, the new line will benefit Tri-State’s members and the communities they serve. "Tri-State studied multiple ways to address the aging infrastructure, improve reliability and meet significant new demand in the region, and we determined that the MNC project was the best option," said Bladow. "The upgraded line will help us meet the needs of our members for years to come."
Because the existing line crosses lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the MNC project requires the completion of an Environmental Assessment (EA).
On Nov. 3, the BLM released a draft EA, triggering a 30-day public comment period (running through Dec. 3) that provides opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed alternatives and project benefits.
The draft EA identifies three construction alternatives. Under "Alternative A," Tri-State's preferred option, the utility would rebuild the line largely within the existing transmission line corridor – with the exception of diverting the current crossing of the Dolores River in western Dolores County to a new location approximately one mile downstream. The re-route is proposed to address safety, access and erosion concerns.
Bladow explained that the new crossing point would be more accessible, making it safer for construction and maintenance workers. "Safety is a top priority at Tri-State, but the existing span across the Dolores River creates real challenges for our maintenance staff. The northern takeoff point is located on steep, narrow, rocky terrain that is extremely difficult to access with vehicles and equipment for needed maintenance," he said. “We are hopeful the BLM, Forest Service and other stakeholders will recognize that our proposed alternative offers a safer and more desirable location and will reduce erosion concerns by removing the current alignment from highly erosive soils."
The other alternatives in the draft EA involve taking no action at all to improve the existing line – which would lead to further deterioration of the critical infrastructure, increase risk for electrical outages and threaten future service capacity – and diverting the existing corridor to accommodate a remnant population of Gunnison sage-grouse in the Dry Creek Basin in central San Miguel County. The BLM has proposed relocating 7.6 miles of line from its current route through the basin to a new alignment located along State Highway 141; the relocation would create an additional 1.3 miles of disturbance through Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat.
As part of the 30-day public comment period on the draft EA, the BLM will host a public open house on November 16 at Dove Creek High School in Dove Creek, Colo., from 5 to 7 p.m. Information is also available at the BLM’s project web page: http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/district_offices/southwest/TriState230kVRebuild.html.
In addition, Tri-State has established a website at www.MNCRebuild.com to provide updated information on the project and to facilitate the submission of comments to the BLM.
Updated: November 10, 2015