Commission recommends Xcel plan

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— A new power line could join existing power lines that run north and west of Emerald Mountain.

Thursday night, the Routt County Planning Commission unanimously recommended Xcel Energy's plan to install an additional power line.

The utility company would like to construct an additional power line to provide electricity in the event that its current power lines fail.

Company representatives are concerned the present backup line is not strong enough to power the Steamboat Springs area if a power outage occurred.

The proposed backup line is three times stronger than the present backup line that would kick in if the main line failed.

The Planning Commission acknowledged that Steamboat couldn't afford to gamble on a weaker backup line that may or may not temporarily support electricity demands.

Although planning commissioners endorsed Xcel's request, they wrestled with their decision.

Several landowners are upset that another power line might run through their property.

Longtime rancher Jim Stanko said he was concerned that additional towers would bring down the value of his and his neighbors' property.

"We put all our value into our land," he said. "It is going to be a definite visual impact."

Several power, sewer and telephone lines already run through Stanko's land. One more line is one too many, he said.

Many planning commissioners said they felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.

They empathized with landowners whose property stands in the way of the proposed third line, but they also understand Steamboat's electricity demands.

"I have a problem with this going through their land," Commissioner Don Alperti said.

Xcel held a series of meetings from October 2001 to January 2003 to talk with potentially impacted landowners.

Xcel spokesperson Michael Diehl stressed the company did not devise its plans without first consulting those most impacted by the proposal.

"We tried to make it as inconspicuous as possible," Diehl said.

The proposed line, which primarily parallels existing power lines, would begin at the western end of TwentyMile Coal Co. land and cross Fish Creek and Trout Creek before reaching the western side of Emerald Mountain where it would run north and south.

It would end at the Steamboat substation near the Fairview Subdivision.

The Planning Commission's recommendation now goes to the Routt County Board of County Commissioners June 24 for a hearing in the commissioners' hearing room.

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