Xcel takes haul plan to county | SteamboatToday.com

Xcel takes haul plan to county

Tamera Manzanares

Routt County commissioners Tuesday will hear Xcel Energy’s proposal for delivering coal by rail to the Hayden Power Station.

The company is requesting a special-use permit to build a railroad spur and wye on the Carpenter Ranch and other properties.

The Routt County Regional Planning Commission unanimously denied the permit in January, citing a conflict with the county’s land preservation goals and the need for more information about other alternatives for coal delivery.

The hearing with county commissioners was postponed twice to give Xcel more time to discuss its chosen plan, as well as other alternatives, with stakeholders including The Nature Conservancy, which owns the Carpenter Ranch.

“We’ve kind of exhausted the review process, and we’re prepared to present our case before the county commissioners (April 12),” said Michael Diehl, principal agent for land and siting rights for Xcel.

Xcel has been searching for a long-term coal delivery solution to the Hayden Station, which will lose its primary source of coal when the nearby Seneca Coal Mine closes this year.

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The company has explored 11 options for rail delivery of coal to the station from the Twentymile coal mine near Oak Creek. Company officials said they considered possible effects of each option on agriculture, the environment, traffic and other values and concerns expressed by landowners and residents.

The chosen plan would involve 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 spur would run through an irrigated hay meadow on Carpenter Ranch as well as properties owned by Tim Nelson and Rosamond Garcia. The spur would tunnel under the highway.

The Nature Conservancy has contended the plan would undermine its mission to protect the environment, agriculture and historic value of the ranch.

“We’re in the same spot we were in at the Planning Commission meeting on option 2A,” said David Gann, Western Colorado program manager for The Nature Conservancy. “Our position hasn’t changed.”

Routt County and the Yampa Valley Land Trust jointly own conservation easements on the ranch, which was purchased in part with public funds from Great Outdoors Colorado.

In January, the Planning Commission questioned why two other options were not viable.

After further reviewing those options with The Nature Conservancy, the Yampa Valley Land Trust, GoCO and the town of Hayden, Xcel still considers its option the best option, Diehl said.

“We’ve still come to the conclusion (option) 2A is the best alternative considering the values of the community,” he said, noting that the community, in this sense, is the area between Mount Harris Canyon and Hayden, not the entire county.

One of the options Xcel was asked to reconsider would involve constructing a spur off the mainline in Mount Harris Canyon. The spur would require a bridge over the Yampa River and also would affect land owned by The Nature Conservancy that is open to the public. Diehl said the environmental effects of building a rail through the popular birding area are too great for that to work.

The other option Xcel was asked to reconsider would involve using an existing spur to deliver coal to the Hayden Gulch Terminal south east of Hayden. Coal unloaded at the gulch would be trucked or hauled by rail to the Hayden Station to the east. Xcel has noted the geography of the land would make building a rail difficult and excessively expensive.

County commissioners ap–proved a special-use permit for Peabody Energy, owner of Seneca and Twentymile mines and Hayden Gulch, to unload coal at the gulch facility and truck it to the station on an existing haul road.

However, that approval came with the condition the gulch plan only serve as a temporary coal delivery solution until Xcel has long-term delivery in place.

The town of Hayden and others are concerned about excessive truck traffic on county roads near the gulch that likely serve future developments.

Xcel’s hearing with county commissioners tentatively has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday. A final agenda will be available Friday.

— To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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