Xcel proposes new power line

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— Xcel Energy, which owns the Hayden power station, needs to build a back-up power line to service Steamboat Springs and will ask for public opinion on where it should go.

"We know there is a need for it and we need to have input from the community," said Michael E. Diehl, citing and land rights agent for Xcel.

The existing back-up line is a 69-killavolt line, unlike the 230-killavolt line that is the primary power line for Steamboat Springs. If the 230 killavolt line went out, the 69 killavolt line could barely give enough power to the city during the peak time of the year, which is about 58 megawatts, Yampa Valley Electric Association Consumer Accounts Manager Jim Chappell said.

If growth continues, the 69-killavolt line would not be enough to power the community if the main line failed in the future, which would leave much of the city in the dark, he said.

But growth isn't the only reason there is a need for the back-up line.

Xcel spokesman Steve Roalstad said the company's individual customers throughout the state each have upped their use of power by an average of 17 percent in the last 10 years.

"I don't think Yampa Valley Electric is far off that," Chappell said.

The plan is to hang another 230-killavolt line to service Steamboat Springs. Xcel proposes eight different procedures to do this, including putting a line right next to the existing 230 killavolt line, which runs north of the Cow Creek area, then east, parallel to County Road 33 about one mile south until it gets to the Steamboat substation.

From that route, the company has six other options for line placement, all beginning along a portion of the large western area line and ending at the substation. Four of those cut through southwest of Steamboat Springs behind Emerald Mountain, one goes along U.S. 40 and one goes through the Strawberry Park area.

The size of the line will be standard and will be smaller than the western area line, which is a large line visible from the Pine Groove area and extends over Buffalo Pass.

Xcel is proposing an above-ground line, not a buried line.

"A buried line is a physical option, but financially, it's not," Diehl said.

Xcel is picking up the $6 to $12 million bill for the line. If the line was buried, the costs would be 10 times more, he said.

The company would consider an underground line if some other funding were available.

Larry Keith, a consultant hired by Xcel, is expecting the public to be vocal about the issue because of the visual impact an electric line can have on the environment.

"That's why we want to get public input on this," Keith said.

In December, a public workshop will be held to explain the need for the back-up line and the eight different ways of getting it to town.

Keith said the company will choose one option with help from public opinion and then propose it to the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County next spring or summer.

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