Meetings will look at coal delivery plans

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Officials have scheduled Nov. 17 for the first of several meetings exploring how to deliver coal by train to Hayden Station.

The meeting will be a public work session with the Routt County and Hayden planning commissions, Xcel Energy officials and residents living in a study area generally between Mount Harris Canyon and Hayden.

Xcel Energy, owner of Hayden Station, submitted a pre-application document to the Routt County Planning Department this week, suggesting a process of reviewing and narrowing criteria to select a route.

"We are committed to a public process and want to take an open mind to this project," said Michael Diehl, principal agent for siting and land rights.

This is Xcel's second attempt to find a viable long-term solution for getting coal to Hayden Station, which will lose an important source of coal when the Seneca Coal Mine closes by the end of this year.

The power plant is south of U.S. Highway 40 near Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

What: First of several work sessions to select an option for delivery coal by rail to Hayden Station

When: 6 p.m. Nov. 17

Where: Routt County Fairgrounds exhibit hall, 635 Poplar St. in Hayden

Routt County commissioners in April denied a special-use permit to build a spur from the Union Pacific mainline on the Carpenter Ranch south to the station. The spur would have run through part of the ranch, other private properties and under U.S. 40.

Xcel had settled on the plan after studying various options and gathering feedback from landowners potentially affected by the options.

County commissioners did not like the plan because the spur would have run through a conservation easement -- jointly owned by the county and Yampa Valley Land Trust -- on the ranch.

The outcome may have been better had the Planning Commission been part of the entire process, said Chad Phillips, assistant director of the planning department.

He noted that the Routt County Planning Commission also denied the original proposal and requested Xcel come back with more information on the other options.

"This is what they should have done to begin with," he said.

Xcel is hoping the more collective process, involving at least three work sessions, will yield a solution.

Xcel is suggesting stakeholders review and prioritize various resources, including agricultural lands, designated historical areas, conservation easements, wetlands, prime wildlife habitat and viewsheds in the first meeting.

The company then will identify possible routes based on criteria identified as most important, Diehl said.

Looking at all the considerations, including topography and the location of Yampa Valley Regional Airport, there doesn't seem to be a best-case scenario, Phillips said.

"I would be surprised if someone comes up with something different than Mike has already come up with," he said.

The Hayden Station uses about 1.8 million tons of coal annually. About half that amount is hauled by truck on Routt County Road 27 from the Twentymile Coal Mine, which will be the station's primary coal source when Xcel closes.

With more growth and traffic concerns on their radar, the Routt County Planning Commission and county commissioners have said they prefer rail delivery in the long-term.

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