BRIGHTON — City Council gave approved a resolution for a conditional use for United Power’s transmission system improvement project despite residents’ concerns the project would have an effect on birds residing in Barr Lake State Park.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and United Power are planning to construct and operate a 115-kilovolt transmission line from its Bromley Substation to its Prairie Center Substation. The conditional use permit was approved in a unanimous 8-0 vote by council during its Feb. 19 meeting.
The transmission line will travel along Cameron Drive, cross over Buckley Road at the beginning of the overpass, travel along the east side of Interstate 76, cross over Bromley Lane at the roundabout, continue north along a gas line easement and then travel west along an existing line to the Bromley substation, according to Community Development Director Holly Prather.
Many of the concerns about the project came from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Friends of Barr Lake, all of whom asked council to consider one of the alternate routes proposed by Tri-State and United Power where the line would be on the west side of I-76 instead of the east.
Residents were concerned about the possibility of the park's raptors – especially eagles – colliding with the lines, and that the development would encroach upon their habitat.
Park Manager Michelle Seubert said Colorado Parks and Wildlife requires a buffer for nesting raptors and that the west edge of the park, where the transmission line is to be built, falls within many of these buffers.
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory Assistant Director Kacie Miller asked council to think of the larger development impact of this project would have.
“By having more and more development around this lake, that is going to lead to those fatalities or other issues or reduce use like we’ve seen already on the west side,” she said.
Rick Thompson, senior manager of transmission land rights and permitting with Tri-State, said the transmission line will not be on state land and that they are very sensitive to the nesting at Barr Lake as well as bald eagles migrating through the area.
“We will not be building this project during the nesting season, we will build this project outside of the nesting season,” he said, adding an environmental monitor will be on site during the construction due to the sensitivity of the area.
In regards to the risk of eagles colliding with the wires, Thompson said electrocution typically doesn’t occur on these types of lines because the wire conductors are far enough apart from each other the eagle’s wings cannot touch the wires. He said they would also be using specular conductors which would shine brighter and the eagles would be able to see them.
Councilwoman Wilma Rose said she takes seriously the fact they don’t want to impact natural resources and wildlife. She said a lot of the same issues came up when council looked at the Prairie Center but there hasn’t been “a huge” negative impact on wildlife in those particular areas.
“I think we have to look at the whole picture and there’s a lot of issues that impact Brighton either way,” she said.
Councilman Rex Bell wanted resident’s to know he values Barr Lake.
“I wish we lived in a world where we got our desires, man, do I,” he said. “Well, unfortunately we don’t. We have a hard decision tonight,” he said.
Mayor Dick McLean said the meeting was one of the most fascinating council meetings he’s been to in his seven years with council because nobody tried to kill each other on one side of the isle or the other.
“We’re not going to please everybody but that’s the tough decisions we have to make,” he said.
United Power CEO Ron Asche said connecting the substations with another transmission line will make the system more reliable. The transmission line will serve as a backup and will continue to deliver electricity to members should there be interference with the lines currently connected into the substations.
“This transmission line is critical to the existing member that we serve and load growth that we will see, not only in the Brighton area, but down in the Reunion area as well, Commerce City,” he said.
Thompson anticipates the engineer design of the project to be completed by fall 2013, the land acquisition complete by summer of 2014 and for the line to be constructed and in service by fall of 2014.
Councilwoman Cynthia Martinez was absent and did not vote.
In other business:
— Council also approved the first reading of a conditional use permit for the Metro Wastewater and Reclamation District South Platte Interceptor Pipeline, in an 8-0 vote.
— Council voted 8-0 to enter into a new intergovernmental agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation for the Bromley Lane and Highway 85 safety improvement project. Council also approved a budget appropriation for $1.5 million to cover the increased costs of the project. The total project is estimated to cost $4,750,614: $2,328,476 coming from the federal government, $581,846 coming from the state, and $1,840,292 being paid by the city.
— A $33,000 grant application will be submitted to Great Outdoors Colorado for the Benedict Park skate spot project. Council approved the application 8-0.
— Council deferred the remaining agenda items to its March 4 council meeting.