Public comment was taken Sept. 3 at the Neldon Mathews Center in Panaca regarding the proposed TransWest Express extra-high-voltage direct current transmission system being planned to run from Wyoming to Arizona, Nevada and southern California.
Bill Boyd, vice-president and chief operating officer of the Denver-based parent company, Anschutz Corporation, said the 725-mile long, 600KV direct current transmission line project would provide transmission infrastructure and capacity to deliver approximately 3,000 megawatts of electric power from renewable, primarily wind-generated, and other energy resources in south-central Wyoming, near Rawlins, to a substation near Las Vegas.
Initiated in 2005 in Arizona and applied for in 2008, “It is a way,” Boyd said, “of bringing the tremendous onshore wind resources Wyoming has and deliver it to highly-populated metropolitan areas in California, Arizona and Nevada.”
The massive infrastructure investment and construction activity will provide business and job opportunities for existing companies and for development for new businesses bringing significant renewable energy investments that could reach an estimated $924 million.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Western Area Power Administration have issued a draft environmental impact statement and draft land use plan amendments.
In line with federal energy policies, about two-thirds of the route is to be located on BLM land, and TransWest Express LLC has applied for rights-of-way over these federal lands.
The line will have a typical right-of-way width of 250 feet. Two substation/converter stations, approximately 200 acres in size will be constructed at the terminating points, including one in Henderson, Nev.
The transmission structures along the route may vary from 100 feet to 180 feet tall depending upon structure type, terrain, span and line crossing.
A bit of controversy arose when the applicant first made their route proposal because the line would go very close to the Mountain Meadows Massacre National Historic Site in southwest Utah, a sensitive location to descendents of those killed in the massacre as well as the LDS Church, and the U.S. Forest Service, who may have also objected to disturbance of the scenery.
The BLM has since identified a few preferred alternative routes, which would bypass the historical site and cross into Lincoln County.
Sharon Knowlton, BLM project manager from Cheyenne, Wyo., and in charge of the environmental analysis, was at the meeting in Panaca collecting public comment about the alternative routes.
She said, “We want the public to let us know did we do our job with the environmental analysis? Do they have a better idea? Do they like where the alternative routes are? Do they not like them?”
Knowlton said public meetings have been held at 13 of the communities along the planned route from Rawlins, Wyo., to Henderson, Nev. The 90-day BLM comment period ends Sept. 30.
Boyd said most of those who had come to the meetings were interested mostly in finding out where the route is in relation to their private property, or had any visual impact on the land.
Early in 2015 is when Boyd said they would likely start construction with completion set for 2017.
Connie Simkins, secretary of the N4 Grazing Board said, “The N4 Grazing board has taken a position that they support the applicants proposed route that generally follows the I-15 corridor down through southwest Utah and clips the southeast corner of Lincoln County because it affects less ranchers.”
She added, “It crosses about 16 miles of ground that way, versus about 67 miles on the BLM preferred route that crosses the Utah-Nevada border near Crestline and goes generally south through at least a dozen allotments.”
Simkins said there are 23 total grazing allotments in Lincoln County that would be affected by the line, “involving about 20 ranchers, and I think about 16 of those are on the agency’s preferred route.”
Simkins thought the applicants proposed route in Lincoln County would be the better route. It would not be a long as the BLM’s preferred alternative route in addition to having to “require going through difficult mountainous terrain where there isn’t even a road today.”