Wind moves forward

Certificates given to allow $2.6 billion to come into Wyoming, possible housing shortage questioned


The Carbon County Council of Governments met at 6:30 p.m. on May 16 at the Encampment Town Hall to listen to representatives from Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) about what road projects were going on in Carbon County for the next six years.

Sue Jones, Carbon County Commissioner, said Fifth Penny Tax informational post cards and posters were ready for distribution to the public. She had brought some with her and asked all who attended to take some to hand out in their municipalities.

“There are 10,000 postcards and 500 posters, so make sure you take some,” Jones said. “Distribute whenever it is handy for you to do so, probably closer to the time would be better.”

Rocky Mountain Power sent Rod Fisher, Principal Project Manager for Gateway Transmission, to give an update on the project’s status on their application to the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council (WISC).

Fisher said it has been 11 years of getting permits to get to the point Rocky Mountain Power is now with the Gateway Transmission project.

“We have finally gotten through our federal permitting with BLM on all of the different components that effected Gateway and we are very excited to have just reached a huge regulatory milestone and approval,” Fisher said. “Last month the Wyoming Public Service Commission authorized certificates of public convenience and necessity for Rocky Mountain Power to invest approximately 2.6 billion dollars in Wyoming for the energy and wind projects by 2020.”

He said Rocky Mountain Power was looking to generate 1150 megawatts of new wind energy and re-power the majority of existing turbines that have been in service for ten years.

“What re-powering means is they are going to take the blades and cells off and replace them with a new generating unit on top and blades,” Fisher said. “The new re-power systems come with more advanced controls and technology.”

He said tax incentives from the federal production tax credit for wind resources to be used by 2020 kept the costs for the projects low.

“The discounts for the cost of the transmission delivers long term savings for our customers, which keeps rates low,” Fisher said.

Fisher said Rocky Mountain Power is requesting information from Carbon County regarding unmitigated impacts for impact assistance, as required by the WISC. New WISC regulations require the impact assistance information from stakeholders be included with the submittal to WISC. He said Rocky Mountain Power is planning to submit to WISC the permit application in early July.

John Johnson, Carbon County Commissioner, asked Fisher, with several projects coming in around the same time, if there was going to be housing shortfalls for the workers projected to come to Carbon County.

Fisher gave the question to Joy McCain from Tetra Tech. She said they were still looking at how the workforce would effect housing.

“Although this project would not have major impact on housing, if cumulatively all these projects happen all at once, there could be shortages,” McLain said. “There will have to be mitigation measures and creative ways to find housing for all these folks.”

She said the difficult part was to know if all these projects were going to happen and if they were going to occur at the same time. McLain said several plans were going to have to be made to adapt for what actually occurs.

Johnson said he looked for guidance from Rocky Mountain Power to know if this is an impact consideration.

Fisher said he understood Johnson’s concern and although at the moment, he could not give a definitive answer if there would be a housing shortage, it was a top priority to address as the projects moved forward.

Nat Drucker, Invenergy associate said his company was getting the wind projects TB Flatts and Ekola Flatts shovel ready. He told the attendees the projects would be following a similar schedule as Gateway 2020.

“The first year would be mostly civil work such as roads and foundations,” Drucker said. “The second year would largely be turbine commissioning and whatever else to get the wind project fully spinning.”

He said projected investment in Carbon County would be approximately 300 million dollars.

“That would translate into upfront about 14 million dollars in sales tax, about 2 million dollars a year in property tax payments, $800,000 annually in Wyoming wind tax payments, for a total tax payment in 30 years for a total of 82 million dollars,” Drucker said. “Now those taxes are distributed between the state of Wyoming and Carbon County although a large portion will go to Carbon County.”

Drucker said as Invenergy goes into the permitting, details are looked into, such as impact of housing to the county. He said there potentially was a lot going on in 2019 and 2020 with energy projects, so there would be several plans formulated to deal with what actually happens.

“I know talk is cheap but it is hard to figure out because these projects all have to go through different permitting processes, so how does it all work when you have to develop a plan for one project and there are three of them,” Drucker said. “While we have to figure out this through the permit process, we should come up with plans on the side—talking informally with the municipalities to find out what is best for Carbon County.”

Keith Fulton, assistant chief engineer for engineering and planning for WYDOT gave a presentation for projects slated over the next six years. After the presentation, he talked about partnerships with the communities. When WYDOT took questions, John Farr, Encampment resident put forth a case of keeping WY 70 between Encampment and Baggs open all year long. It is also known as Battle Pass Scenic Byway.

“We have a marvelous road that is shut down half the year,” Farr said. “Colorado has 11 state highways that are kept open year ‘round and they are higher than Battle Pass.”

Farr said Colorado says it is easier to keep roads open of new snow than to bury them and dig them out of hard pack snow and ice each spring.

He said the Little Snake River Valley represents half the assessed valuation of Carbon County. He said Baggs sends the vast majority of their business to Craig, Colo. and into Utah. The school children who have activities between the communities of Encampment and Baggs require busses to go an extra 180 miles.

Farr believes if Colorado can keep their roads open, so can Wyoming.

He said snowmobilers don’t have access because the road gates prevent access to the snow since the snow line is higher on the hill in average snow years, especially in the spring and fall. Farr said there was serous detrimental economic impact by the road being shut six to seven months of the year.

Fulton thanked Farr and said he would take his comments to WYDOT administration.

Elections of officers had Steven Nicholson stay the chairman and Kenda Colman come in as the new vice chairman. The secretary/Treasurer position remained unfilled until the next meeting.

The next scheduled meeting will at 6 :30 p.m. on July 18 in the town of Riverside.


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