East Side landowners still unable to negotiate with Rocky Mountain Power
September 8, 2015
A handful of East Side property owners has been unable to negotiate a new location for an existing transmission line with Rocky Mountain Power and tensions are running high between the two parties.
"Apparently there have been some threats made," said Chris Ure, East Side Planning Commission chair.
East Side Planning Commissioners requested a Summit County sheriff’s deputy at a hearing Thursday after a Rocky Mountain Power employee was threatened last month while examining the vegetation around the existing line. However, there were no confrontations at the meeting.
The Planning Commission decided to continue the discussion until the first meeting in October to give both parties more time to reach an agreement.
"There has been some disagreements between the landowners and Rocky Mountain Power," said Ure, who was unable to attend the meeting. "The Planning Commission told them to go back and get things figured out. It’s like, you’re all big boys, take care of it."
Several months ago, Rocky Mountain Power requested to upgrade the transmission line that runs from Evanston, Wyoming and connects with substations in Croyden, Coalville and Silver Creek, crossing 207 properties throughout the county.
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In February, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a portion of the line upgrade, but delayed a decision on the part of the line that breaks off toward the Coalville substation after five properties owners protested the portion that cuts through their properties.
"Rocky Mountain Power agreed to negotiate with some of the property owners to work on a realignment," said Doug Clyde, planning commissioner. "What happened in the last several months is they did continue to negotiate and look at alternative, but were unable to come to an agreement. The Planning Commission unanimously determined that there were still options they haven’t reviewed so we gave them and staff very specific instructions to find a workable compromise."
The Planning Commission went to considerable effort to facilitate this realignment, but it appears one obvious alternative has not been investigated, which is a slight variation of the alignment, Clyde said.
"Rocky Mountain Power has spent a lot of time and hasn’t gotten anywhere on this," he said. "Everyone is aware this has to be dealt with quickly and after the discussion, we are all very hopeful that this can be done."
Rocky Mountain Power holds easements, dating back almost a century, to upgrade the line through the existing corridor. It renegotiated new easements with 200 of the 207 property owners where the line crosses.
Ben Keyes is one of the property owners who did not sign the updated easement. At previous meetings Keyes has cited health and agriculture concerns for his reasoning behind requesting a new alignment. Keyes declined to comment after Thursday’s meeting because of the ongoing negotiations.
Margaret Oler, Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson, said she was disappointed at the outcome of the hearing.
"If the group agreed on an alternative and if it were a feasible reroute we would consider that. But all property owners have not been able to agree on that alternative route, specifically the easements on the hill," Oler said. "But we simply have to move forward with the project."
The utility company has decided to go back to the original application and pursue the upgrade through the existing easements.
"That was the original option and those easements have been in place since 1916," Oler said. "It’s a project that benefits the entire region up there as well as folks locally. We went back to the original application seeking to rebuild the line in its original alignment and sign the existing easements because there are already in place."
Oler said securing the easements won’t happen overnight, but the process has to continue moving forward.
"We have to get going on it now in order to have it in place," Oler said. "It’s a project that needs to be completed. Our commitment to our customers is to provide safe, reliable electric service and we simply have to upgrade this particular project to continue that."
According to Rocky Mountain Power, the upgrades would triple the power capacity and increase the voltage from 46 kilovolts to 138 kilovolts, requiring the installation of new power poles about 20 feet taller than the existing poles.
The new poles would range in height from 70 to 120 feet and would be made of either wood or steel. Transmission lines exceeding 45 feet in height require a conditional use permit in Eastern Summit County.
More than five meetings have been held with the Planning Commission and the utility company.
The topic will be readdressed at the next regularly scheduled commission meeting in October.