Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Hayden Valley Press Staff The Routt County Board of Commissioners on March 15 will consider a proposal, in some form or another, from Xcel Energy to build a long-term coal delivery system for the Hayden Power Station. The Routt County Planning Commission on Jan. 20 denied a special-use permit for Xcel to build a railroad spur through the Carpenter Ranch and other properties. County commissioners were scheduled to hear the same request Tuesday. In a letter to the Routt County Planning Department, Hayden Station Director Frank Roitsch requested that commissioners postpone their hearing to give the company time to "work out" objections The Nature Conservancy has with the proposal. Xcel plans to schedule a meeting with The Nature Conservancy, which owns the Carpenter Ranch, according to the letter. The meeting also would involve the Yampa Valley Land Trust, part owner of conservation easements on the ranch, and Great Outdoors Colorado, which contributed to the purchase of the ranch. Known as option 2A, the plan involves building a wye and spur from the Union Pacific mainline about 200 yards west of an existing spur near where U.S. Highway 40 crosses the Yampa River. The plan would avoid an at-grade crossing with U.S. 40, as well as effects to river riparian areas that would occur if Xcel uses the existing spur. Option 2A was among 11 delivery options the company considered. Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz did not confirm that Xcel would present option 2A to county commissioners in March. "We are still looking at our options and determining our best course of action with the commissioners," Stutz said. The Planning Commission denied the permit, citing a conflict with land preservation goals. Routt County jointly owns conservation easements on the ranch with the Yampa Valley Land Trust. If Xcel presents additional information on option 2A, county commissioners could send the request back to the Planning Commission, staff planner Chad Phillips said.
The Routt County Planning Commission on Thursday again will consider a request from Peabody Energy for a special-use permit to unload coal at its Hayden Gulch facility.
The commission tabled the company's request Jan. 20 because it wanted more information from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and the Colorado Department of Transportation regarding a rail crossing of U.S. Highway 40 that leads to the facility two miles southeast of Hayden.
The permit would allow Peabody to temporarily deliver coal to Xcel Energy's Hayden Power Station, which will lose its primary source of coal when the nearby Seneca coal mine closes this year.
The Hayden Gulch proposal is intended to provide short-term coal supplies from the Twentymile Coal Co. near Oak Creek to Hayden Station. Xcel Energy is looking for a long-term delivery solution now that Peabody plans to close the Seneca Mine.
Trains would access Hayden Gulch, which last was used as a coal loading facility in 1995, from an existing spur off the Union Pacific mainline east of Hayden. The spur crosses U.S. 40 before heading south about 1.3 miles, where it crosses Routt County Road 37 near the gulch.
Trucks would haul coal to the Hayden Station on an existing haul road.
The Planning Commission on Jan. 20 was concerned about whether the PUC or CDOT would require a rail overpass or separated-grade crossing of U.S. 40.
The commission also wanted to see a landscaping plan to minimize noise and visual effects of trains on The Haven Assisted Living Center, located off C.R. 37 near the spur.
Peabody plans to present a conceptual landscape plan for The Haven and information from the PUC and CDOT on Thursday.
Although Hayden town officials understand the Hayden Station's coal needs, they are concerned that the Hayden Gulch might end up as a long-term coal handling facility for incoming supplies, as well as coal from any future coal mining operations in the area, Town Manager Russ Martin said.
Martin and Mayor Chuck Grobe plan to attend the Planning Commission meeting Thursday.
At some point, Martin said the town wants Peabody to consider moving the facility to the south and east to eliminate traffic conflicts with C.R. 37, as well as noise and other effects the facility may have on neighboring landowners as well as future residents in that area.
"We think there's a better alternative," Martin said. "It may cost more or less money, but we think there's an opportunity there to pursue."
Ron Nereson's farm is near Hayden Gulch. He told the commission in January that when the facility was last in use, coal dust dried out his crops and the train noise was difficult to endure.
The facility is near anticipated growth areas, and future residents will face the same effects as the Neresons, Martin said.
"We're heading in that direction, and we want to make sure we take care of issues for citizens that are not there yet," he said.
Peabody consultant John Weinman told the commission in January that the company plans to use various dust-control measures to mitigate negative effects on nearby residents.
The company also is willing to upgrade railroad-warning signals at U.S. 40 and C.R. 37 and limit the number of rail cars so traffic on C.R. 37 isn't blocked while trains unload coal.
The Routt County Planning Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday in the hearing room in the Routt County Courthouse Annex, 136 Sixth St. in Steamboat Springs.
The Hayden Gulch application is the first item on the commission's agenda.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.