A draft environmental review for a proposed 725-mile, 3,000-megawatt electrical transmission line that would stretch across four states suggests deviating from the route that the Denver company building the line wants in Wyoming.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Western Area Power Administration released the draft review of the TransWest Express LLC transmission line Wednesday. It considers impacts to the environment, people and cultural resources. In Wyoming, the federal agencies proposed shifting the route to avoid hurting views and the greater sage grouse, a bird that is threatened to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
The overall proposed route would start near Sinclair and end near Boulder City, Nev. Transmission lines would also go through Colorado and Utah.
In Wyoming, TransWest, a subsidiary of Anschutz Corp., wants the route to start near Sinclair, then head west, just south of Interstate 80 to Wamsutter. In Wamsutter, it would turn south and follow the Carbon-Sweetwater county line, then head southwest to cross into Colorado, according to the draft review.
The company developed the route with the Carbon and Sweetwater county commissions, as well as the Moffat County Commission in Colorado, said TransWest spokeswoman Kara Choquette. The three commissions signed a document in support of the route in 2011.
But the federal agencies’ preferred route follows the company’s route from the beginning to 15 miles south of Wamsutter. Then it would diverge to the east and parallel Wyoming Highway 789 for about four miles. Just before Baggs, the route would turn west and follow the Shell Creek Stock Trail road for 20 miles, then cross into Sweetwater County and rejoin the company’s preferred route into Colorado.
TransWest plans to transmit Wyoming wind along the line to customers in Arizona, Nevada and California, Choquette said.
TransWest is a subsidiary of The Anschutz Corp. Another Anschutz subsidiary, Power Co. of Wyoming, is planning the 1,000-turbine project, the country’s largest wind farm, in Carbon County. Choquette said the projects are independent of each other.
Choquette said the company doesn’t yet have an opinion about the Wednesday’s draft review. Employees are still reviewing it.
“Something we will do over the next 90 days is look at what the analysis says and we will provide comments like everyone else,” she said.
Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, a quasi-government agency that works to diversify the state’s economy through improvements in electric transmission infrastructure, saw the draft review but said he was focusing more on the big picture.
“Without a doubt, this project will definitely be good for the reliability of the grid,” he said. “It will be good for California ratepayers. It will be good for Wyoming in that it will create lots of new jobs. We are excited about the fact that this project is moving forward.”
Renny MacKay, a spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead, said the governor will study the draft review and submit comments. He supported the route that the three counties wanted, “and as the commissioners review the draft, he will seek their perspective,” MacKay said in an email.
Carbon County Commissioner Lindy Glode said that the three counties wanted to keep the transmission lines away from the communities of Baggs, Dixon and Savery. The agencies’ preference brings the lines closer to the communities. But she doesn’t think the federal agencies’ route is drastically different.
“I think we can negotiate it,” she said. “I think it will be OK.”