Landowners pore over plat maps identifying potential courses and properties affected at the briefing.
Rocky Mountain Power wants the public involved as soon as possible in the early planning stages of its massive transmission line projects and it's no wonder why.
RMP plans to invest $6 billion on 2,000 miles worth of high-voltage lines across the Intermountain West and it wants no unpleasant surprises for itself or property owners along the way. Some of those lines could be routed through Castle Country.
So the company did its research of all probable pathways in Carbon County and personally invited landowners along the routes to a briefing on the USU Eastern campus last Thursday.
In a short speech, Community Manager Debra Dull outlined the situation.
It has been about two decades since the company has done any major upgrades to its electric transmission system. During those 20 years, demand for power has gone up 26 percent. Despite the recent recession, the public appetite for energy has grown because of population and business growth, central air conditioning and all sorts of appliances.
Now it is time add some new transmission lines because the system will be at capacity and its reliability in jeopardy before 2020.
One of those new high-voltage pathways, the so-called Gateway South project, has preliminary - but by no means final - routes to cut across Carbon or Emery county, or both. That would mean a row of tall steel lattice towers, each reaching 140 to 190 feet into the sky.
Engineers estimate that the average distance between the towers would be 1,000 feet, meaning four or five to the mile.
The thick cables strung along the towers would carry energy charged at 500,000 volts. In contrast, the big lines leaving the Hunter and Huntington plants are 345,000 volts.
Dull explained that the new lines cannot parallel the existing rights of way. The reason for this is system reliability. All these towers are out in the open, which means they'll be affected by storms, landslides, forest fires, and other calamities.
Putting lines too close together would increase the odds of one natural disaster knocking out all the lines.
The whole Gateway south project will span 400 miles as the crow flies from the southeastern edge of Wyoming to the Clover substation near Mona.
RMP has come up with a web of route alternatives to traverse that distance, with each alternative selected on the basis of reliability and environmental considerations.
For example, several routes lead from Wyoming south into Colorado, and in Colorado heading westward the alternatives continue to branch. One route through Utah would enter just east of the Bonanza power plant, another would come into the state further to the south along I-70.
Western Carbon County is a nexus of alternative routes, where the lines could come in along US-6 from I-70, or from the north through Emma Park, or along U-10 from Castle Dale/Huntington.
Several alternatives bypass Carbon County entirely.
One would pass through Uintah and Duchesne counties to the north, the other would skirt south spanning the entire width of Emery County.
RMP has done title searches on every parcel along the routes through Carbon County, and at Thursday's meeting provided plat maps of the potentially affected areas so landowners could see for themselves where the lines would cross their property.
Company spokesperson Margaret Oler confirmed that the construction will be centrally assessed for property taxes.
The Bureau of Land Management is the lead agency in permitting access across federal public lands. The BLM has set a public scoping hearing on the matter in Price for May 31.