Montrose-Nucla-Cahone transmission upgrade project
The power system in Southwest Colorado relies on a limited network of generation and transmission infrastructure to maintain reliability and meet member load. In 1995, Tri-State and other regional utilities recognized that the transmission system was becoming stressed and new lines needed to be built and existing lines needed to be replaced or upgraded. Tri-State studied multiple ways to address the aging infrastructure, improve reliability and meet significant new demand in the region. Related studies showed the need to rebuild the existing Nucla-Sunshine transmission line and upgrade the Montrose-Nucla-Cahone (MNC) infrastructure from 115kV to 230kV to increase capacity. In 2012, Tri-State completed the Nucla-Sunshine line.
In 2011, Tri-State formally began the process to make infrastructure improvements to MNC and upgrade the capacity from 115kV to 230kV. Tri-State continues to work through the process, which includes review by several state and federal agencies.
Progress update regarding transmission line construction on Uncompahgre Plateau, Nucla-Cahone segment set to begin in 2018
Tri-State’s construction contractor has made excellent progress on construction of the Montrose-Nucla segment of the Montrose-Nucla-Cahone transmission line due to the mild weather on the west slope. Tri-State has completed setting and framing structures from the top of the Uncompahgre Plateau near the Raspberry Communication site all the way to the eastern forest boundary on the Ouray Ranger District. A large portion of the structures on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) have also been set. The construction contractor will take a holiday break from Dec. 22 through Jan. 8. Depending on the weather, Probst may continue aerial framing of structures on the BLM UFO through the month of January. An updated construction schedule will be provided after the New Year.
Construction of the Nucla-Cahone transmission line segment is also scheduled to begin in 2018 with access improvements beginning in late spring/early summer and transmission line construction beginning next fall.
Transmission line construction beginning on Uncompahgre Plateau
Tri-State’s construction contractor will begin upgrading the line segment beginning in September 2017 and is scheduled to complete the project in October 2018. Access road improvements and power pole pad construction is already underway in the Uncompahgre National Forest.
The line segment is located in Montrose County and spans public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management-Uncompahgre Field Office, the U.S. Forest Service-Uncompahgre National Forest and private lands.
Heavy equipment will be used and all safety precautions should be taken to avoid portions of the right-of-way where construction is ongoing.
Right of Way improvements started
Right of Way improvements, access improvements, pad construction and tree clearing will be April 2017 through August 2017 on the Montrose-Nucla segment of the transmission line. Transmission line construction activities will occur between September 2017 and October 2018.
Final Environmental Assessment Issued September 2, 2016
The Montrose-Nucla-Cahone Transmission Improvement Project Final Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as the lead federal agency and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) as the cooperating agency was released on September 2, 2016.
The BLM and the USFS completed the Final EA based on input received during a public comment period on the draft EA that was conducted from November, 3 2015 through December 3, 2015. Both agencies are using the Final EA to make independent decisions related to the approval of the proposed project to construct, operate and maintain a transmission line through their respectively administered lands.
The Forest Service has issued a Decision Notice and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) concurrent with the Final EA. Based upon review of the EA and the supporting documents, the Forest Supervisor has determined that the Alternative A – Proposed Action (Selected Alternative), with the Environmental Protection Measures and stipulations (Appendix D and associated appendices of EA) of the project, is not a major federal action and will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment individually or cumulatively with other actions in the general area.
This decision is subject to a pre-decisional objection process which continues until October 24, 2016. If no objections are registered, the Forest Service Decision will become final.
The BLM will not issue a Decision Record and ROW grants until the conclusion of the USFS pre-decisional objection period.
Tri-State has completed county permitting activities with Montrose and started the application process in San Miguel and Dolores counties. County permits will enable Tri-State to construct the project and are anticipated from the two remaining counties by February 2017.
Environmental Assessment Under Review by BLM and USFS
The Montrose-Nucla-Cahone Transmission Improvement Project is being evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as the lead federal agency and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) as the cooperating agency. The process started in May 2014 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. The BLM and the USFS are currently preparing the Final Environmental Assessment (EA) based on input received during a public comment period on the draft EA that was conducted from November, 3 2015 through December 3, 2015. The Final EA is expected to be issued in late August. Both agencies will use the Final EA to make independent decisions related to the approval of the proposed project to construct, operate and maintain a transmission line through their respectively administered lands.
Tri-State has initiated county permitting activities with Montrose, San Miguel and Dolores counties. County permits will enable Tri-State to construct the project and are anticipated from all three counties by the end of 2016.