New WAPA transmission lines along Highway 34 spark citizen concern |

New WAPA transmission lines along Highway 34 spark citizen concern

A TOWERING EYESORE? That's what some Three Lakes residents are calling the new Western Area Power Administration's transmission lines that have been constructed along Highway 34 near Cutthroat Bay.
Bryce Martin / Sky-Hi News |

Residents of the Three Lakes region have noticed over the past few weeks a new set of power transmission lines being constructed on both sides of Highway 34 near Cutthroat Bay on Lake Granby, and some aren’t too happy with the resulting view.

The new transmission lines are part of the Western Area Power Administration’s — more commonly known as WAPA — Granby Pumping Plant-Windy Gap Transmission Line Rebuild Project.

WAPA is currently in the midst of rebuilding approximately 12 miles of transmission line stretching from the electrical substation just north of the Windy Gap Pumping Plant to the Farr Pump Plant on Lake Granby. Construction of the new transmission line began in May as materials and equipment began arriving and is set to continue through December when the line will be energized.

The project has stirred up some controversy in Grand County with more than a few residents taking issue with the new transmission lines and the perceived impacts the new lines will have on views of the surrounding mountains.

Avis Gray, a homeowner and business owner living in the vicinity of County Road 4, expressed her displeasure with the new transmission lines, referring to the structures as Eiffel Towers.

“This is a scenic highway with very strict guidelines,” Gray said. “These power monsters totally obstruct the view of the scenic byways main claim to fame, the lake. They are a visual obstruction, potential safety hazard, and they are just overkill.”

Local restaurateur Jean Claude Cavalera, owner of and chef at the Stillwater Grill located directly across Highway 34 from the new transmission line’s path, was less than thrilled with the new lines.

“This looks so ugly,” Cavalera said. “It looks like something from the ‘Twilight Zone’ in the 50s. We are on the Three Lakes Scenic Highway and I don’t understand how they got the OK to do that. I’m pretty appalled.”

According to a spokesperson from WAPA, view-sheds, and impacts to view-sheds from the new transmission line, were taken into account during the environmental review process WAPA conducted before the project was formally approved.

The Environmental Impact Statement for the project can be viewed on WAPA’s website for the project.

Construction of the replacement transmission line is being done in steps with the initial phase focusing on a section running from the Farr Pump Plant to the Stillwater Tap, located just east of County Road 4 and Hilltop Drive. Completion of phase one is expected in mid-August. Phase two of the project, which started in mid-July, will run from the substation north of Highway 40 and the Windy Gap Pump Plant west to a point slightly southwest of Coffee Divide. Phase two is set for completion in late September.

Phase three of the project will begin in early September and run through mid-November. Phase three will include rebuilding transmission lines from the end point of phase two construction, southwest of Coffee Divide, to a location slightly northwest of the Stillwater Campground on Lake Granby. The fourth phase of construction will be the shortest single segment of construction and will connect the phase three-construction terminus, northwest of Stillwater, to the Stillwater Tap just west of County Road 4. The fourth phase is set to begin in mid October and run through late November.

The fifth and final phase of the project will be removal of the older transmission line. The fifth phase will be broken down into three separate segments. The northern most segment slated for removal runs from Highway 34 southeast to the Farr Pump Plant. A short segment, stretching from about Kokanee Cove to just north of Coffee Divide, will be removed from alongside the highway. The largest segment for removal stretches from just south of Coffee Divide to slightly east of Highway 125 in the same vicinity as the Bunte Highline Ditch.

According to WAPA’s website WAPA owns and operates the Granby Pumping Plant-to-Windy Gap Substation transmission line in Grand County, which was originally built in 1939 to power the pumps that move water through the Three Lakes network for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

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