The Saratoga Sun -

CP&L completes right-of-way project

 

courtesy of CP&L

After six years of planning and hard labor, the original power line right-of-way clearing project on the National Forest was officially completed last month.

Chuck Larsen, general manager with Carbon Power and Light (CP&L), said the No. 1 goal for the project, which involved clearing multiple trees, was to prevent the possibility of the company’s power lines starting a forest fire and incurring the liability associated with that. Second in importance, he said, was insuring service reliability and to assist in protecting those cabin owner areas from possible power line contact with a tree, which could result in a fire.

Larsen said the company had its initial meeting with the United State Forest Service (USFS) regarding the project Oct. 2007, after noticing the severity of bark beetle infestation in the mountainous areas of CP&L’s service territory. Larsen then called for a meeting to discuss it with USFS personnel.

“Our standard right-of-way width on the national forest was 30 feet wide, with 15 feet on either side of the center line, and under that special use permit we were required to clear that 30 feet and keep it maintained,” Larsen said. “Anything outside of the 30 feet, we had to have permission from the forest service to cut. I was surprised when I called this initial meeting because now everything outside of the 30 feet was dying and had potential to fall on the power lines. We would be held liable if a tree fell on the line and started a fire.”

Larsen said May 2008 was when CP&L reached the point with the USFS where the project’s environmental analysis could be initiated.

“That was for 34 miles of power line right-of-way on the national forest, and this was the first time they had to deal with something like this,” he said. “We started the process of the environmental analysis in 2008, and in 2009, we submitted the EA for approval.”

In June 2009, Larsen also traveled to speak at a senate sub-committee meeting in Washington, D.C. about the issue. “I spoke about our concerns over being liable, and the whole scope of that meeting was to bring to light the issues over the bark beetle infestation,” he said. “We got the final decision of approval for the EA in August of 2009, and then we cut our first tree. We completed a bidding process and then hired Platte Valley Forest Management, which was a local logging contractor, to actually do the work. They had as many as up to six people on their crew working.” The project, according to Larsen, was initially estimated to cost $1.5 million, but eventually ended up at $1.6 million. He said the right-of-ways were eventually widened by more than 100 feet. “We widened the right-of-ways from 30 feet to 150 feet, 75 feet either side of the center line,” Larsen said. “Those right-of-ways now will revert over time back to a 50-foot right-of-way with healthy trees, and these 34 miles of power line served for the most part 500 seasonal type customers. We went from initially talking to those customers about our project and hearing ‘You’re not touching our trees,’ but then we had a couple Colorado forest fires next door and suddenly the mindset gets to be ‘When are you going to get here.’ Overall, our Member-Owners impacted by the project were very helpful and understanding.” Larsen said that beyond the scope of the original right-of-way project, CP&L is now working with the USFS on two other related projects.”We will retire a section of overhead power line near Brooklyn Lake and replace it with an underground power line along the Brooklyn Lake road, and there will be a clearing of the right-of-way from the ski area on up to the Brooklyn Lake road,” he said. “This portion was removed from the original project by the Forest Service due to it being along a scenic byway. Now those trees have been impacted by the bark beetle infestation and the problem needs to be addressed.” 

 

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