WAPA digesting Estes-to-Flatiron rebuild comments

Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) officials are reviewing more than 200 pages of scoping documents from the environmental assessment (EA) and environmental impact statement (EIS) processes associated with the proposed Estes to Flatiron transmission line rebuild project in Colorado.

“Right now, the teams are analyzing the input we’ve received from participants so they can develop the draft environmental impact statement” or DEIS, a WAPA spokesperson told TransmissionHub Jan. 14. 

WAPA expects to issue the DEIS this summer. A comment period of at least 45 days will begin when the DEIS is issued and a third comment period of at least 30 days will begin when the agency issues the final environmental impact statement (FEIS).

The scoping documents were issued after numerous public meetings during the EA process, which began in November 2011, and the EIS process that followed after the EA process identified “significant public concern,” which is one of the criteria that can trigger the need for an EIS under the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Key issues raised during the EIS process were similar to those identified in the EA process but with a greater focus on the purpose of, and need for, the project. Other key concerns raised were siting criteria, including locating the project to avoid residential and recreational areas and scenic corridors. Concerns also included design options with a focus on reducing the visibility of the ROW by using towers shorter than the surrounding vegetation where possible, and using weathering steel structures.

The original 90-day EIS scoping period, which opened April 17, 2012, was extended twice to allow the public more opportunities to provide input on the project alternatives. The EIS scoping period ultimately ran six months.

Issuance of the reports represents a major milestone in the EIS process, the spokesperson said.

WAPA received almost 600 unique comments that raised more than 80 issues during the EA process. During the EIS process, the agency received 52 unique comment letters and 11 form letters that raised almost 225 unique comments.

While comments from the EA and EIS scoping processes were published in separate documents for clarity, “[A]ll scoping input will be reviewed and analyzed together,” the spokesperson said.

The agency is proposing the renovation of approximately 32 miles of transmission line in three segments that connect the city of Estes Park, Colo., to Flatiron Reservoir. The line structures at “60 to 72 years of, deteriorating, and need to be upgraded to current National electrical Safety Code (NESC),” WAPA wrote in its notification letter to the public.

The project would eliminate about 16 miles of transmission line by replacing the aging lines and structures, which are currently situated on two separate rights-of-way (ROW), with a single 115-kV double-circuit line on one of the ROW.

The ROW that is abandoned will be restored to its original state, a WAPA spokesperson previously told TransmissionHub.

WAPA has said that upgrading these lines is necessary to comply with safety standards; ensure reliable and cost effective electricity in Estes Park, Loveland and along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains; and provide accessibility for maintenance and emergencies.

The line upgrade is estimated to cost $19m and is planned to be energized in 2014, according to TransmissionHub data.