Public comments on TransWest Express reflect common concerns

With the conclusion of the final public open houses and hearings on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed the TransWest Express transmission project, officials with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) are sifting through the comments received so far.

Comments made during the public gatherings that concluded on Sept. 6 centered on areas of concern typically expressed by members of the public who would potentially be affected by the proposed project. The commend period ends Sept. 30.

“The primary issues are avoiding private lands wherever possible, and avoiding special areas that are important to the people living in their vicinity,” a BLM spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 9. “They want those special areas protected.”

Those areas include the Mountain Meadows area of Utah, an area residents are insistent it not be interfered with in any way, the spokesperson said.

The Mountain Meadows area, approximately 35 miles west of Cedar City, Utah, is the site of the Mountain Meadows massacre, the culmination of a series of attacks on a wagon train carrying emigrants from their home in Arkansas to California. The massacre took place on Sept. 11, 1857, perpetrated by members of the local militia in southern Utah and members of the Paiute tribe of Native Americans.

Others expressed concern about avoiding the habitat of the greater sage grouse, a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species act.

Still others raised concerns about degradation of the viewscape.

“I bought in this beautiful, pristine, rural setting specifically to get away from these kinds of things and now there’s the potential that I’m going to be looking at it; how can we work this out?” was a frequently repeated theme, the spokesperson said.

The draft EIS resulted from more than four years of environmental analysis, public input and collaboration among more than 50 federal, state and local cooperating agencies. Comments will be accepted through the close of the comment period, either by e-mail through the project website or by postal mail, and must be received by BLM by close of business Sept. 30 to be included and addressed in the final EIS, which the agency expects to issue in 12 to 18 months, the spokesperson said.

As proposed, the project will consist of a 600-kV DC transmission line approximately 725 miles in length, extending across state, federal and private lands in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.

Two terminal stations will be located on private or public lands at either end of the transmission line, near Sinclair, Wyo., and at the Marketplace Hub in the Eldorado Valley, near Boulder City, Nev. The project would also include two ground electrode facilities within 100 miles of each of the northern and southern terminals. The ground electrode facilities would be used to maintain system operations in the event of the loss of one or more poles or circuits.

A communication system consisting of a network of 12 to 15 fiber optic communication and regeneration sites and microwave facilities at each terminal are also part of the proposed project. Typically, the communications infrastructure would be located within the transmission line ROW, which is planned to be 250 feet wide.

The project would also include the construction of access routes, including improvements to existing roads, new overland access, and new unpaved roads to access the proposed project facilities and work areas during the construction, operation, and maintenance phases.

The project is estimated to cost $3bn and is expected to be in service in 2017, according to TransmissionHub data.

The project is one of seven projects selected as a pilot fast-track project by the Obama Administration’s rapid response team for transmission, which was established to coordinate the permitting review among the numerous federal and state agencies involved, provide consistent consultation with tribal governments, and assist in resolving interagency conflicts.