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Tri-State Approved by Kiowa County Commissioners to Build Transmission System Through Kiowa County

By Betsy Barnett

October 19, 2022

At their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, October 13 the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) for Kiowa County approved the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s proposal to build 24 miles of transmission lines through the eastern end of Kiowa County running from north to south along Highway 385. The line will run for 110 total miles beginning at Tri-State’s current transmission sub-station in Burlington, down through Cheyenne and Kiowa County basically along the highway between Roads 71 and 73 and ending in the Lamar area in Prowers County at that existing sub-station.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is one of two major utility companies that have applied for permits to run transmission lines through varying parts of Kiowa County. The other major company is Xcel Energy who is still working with the BOCC on getting approval of their permit. That permit approval is expected to come by the end of November as Xcel Energy’s hearing with the BOCC is scheduled to be at the Courthouse in Eads on November 9th at 10:00 am.

Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42 electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states including Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nebraska that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West.

Four area electric distribution cooperatives are supplied, at least in part, by Tri-State including Southeast Colorado Power Association in La Junta, K.C. Electric Association in Hugo, San Isabel Electric Association out of Pueblo, and Mountain View Electric Association out of Limon.

Kiowa County held the permit hearing for Tri-State’s proposed transmission line project on September 29th. Numerous landowners, members from the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission and other interested citizens attended the hearing.

The commissioners, administrative assistant Tina Adamson, county attorney in 1041 matters Darla Specht and county agronomist Michelle Nelson were also at the table. County attorney Don Steerman attended on a phone call.

Selina Koler, Siting and Environmental Planner for Tri-State gave the initial presentation of information about the project. She described the new transmission line that will run from Burlington to Lamar as a 230kV transmission line.

Koler indicated this line is absolutely critical to ensure reliability for the entire southeastern section of Colorado as currently the only 230kV line is in the Lamar area and when it goes out there’s no other line capable of holding that level of generation.

Secondly, the new line will increase the potential of energy development in eastern Colorado and release some of the energy restraints currently present in southeastern Colorado.

“There’s a lot of potential out there but with the limited capacity it’s hard to get the power out.”

Koler went on to describe the structures as steel frames with optical ground wire and there will be a telecom regeneration site somewhere in Cheyenne County that will act as a booster for the long distances the power will have to travel. The right of way will be from 150’ to 200’ on private or state land. No federal land is involved in the project.

Landowners along the line have already been contacted and through the next year the company will collect all the easements and leases. Koler indicated as far as the landowner is concerned, “Agriculture is our first thing to consider as we begin building the line. We try to avoid center pivots at all costs as they represent a big expense if they have to be moved. Also, we will try to avoid construction activity during harvest and planting season. If there happens to be a crop impacted, then damages will be paid. We also are very aware of livestock issues.”

The time line includes wrapping up the easement collections through 2023, and also finish up with detailed engineering plans and materials access. Construction will begin in the first quarter of 2024, and it will take 8-to-12 months to complete putting the new line in service in early 2025.

One stumbling block between the county and Tri-State that had the potential to delay things occurred when the discussion of the county requiring a financial security or credit letter from the banks and insurance companies began. Koler indicated that the other counties had waived the security requirements because this particular line is absolutely needed, and they have been assured by Tri-County that it will not be removed in the future.

In their final determination on Thursday, the BOCC joined the rest of the counties impacted by the project and waived the financial security requirement after a representative from Tri-State assured the BOCC, “This project is a big deal and critical infrastructure. It is very important whether it’s us here eventually or not. The line is not going away.”

Finally, Tri-State has informed the BOCC they have put out RFPs to renewable energy companies in the solar and wind industries. Koler indicated there are a lot of applications already. In the end Tri-State will choose an undetermined number of wind or solar farms that will develop and connect to their transmission line.

Koler ended by saying, “This new line can handle multiple wind and solar farms.”

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