June 9, 2005
Xcel Energy plans to build a 125-mile power line from Denver to Pueblo, much of it along an existing corridor that cuts through El Paso County. Under a new state law, the company must ask the Public Utilities Commission to rule that the noise and buzzing of the 345,000-volt transmission line is “reasonable.” A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the commission’s hearing room of Douglas County’s Philip S. Miller Building, 100 Third St., Castle Rock. It doesn’t appear the project will spark the same level of controversy a previous Xcel proposal did. In 2002, the company abandoned a plan to build a power line through eastern El Paso County after hundreds of residents said the 175-foot towers supporting the line would ruin views. Xcel instead constructed a 73-mile power line in its existing corridor from the Daniels Park Substation in northern Douglas County to a substation in Midway. That line was finished early this year. Now Xcel wants to build a second, equally powerful line in the same corridor. Spokesman Mark Stutz said the power line would operate at 20 to 30 decibels, which he described as background noise, 97 percent of the time. The noise level would rise to 52 to 56 decibels when it rains or there’s a lot of humidity, about 3 percent of the time, Stutz said. The new line hasn’t produced bothersome noise, but Xcel isn’t using it at its full capacity, said Linda Nuzum, president of the homeowners association for Castle Pines North, an upscale community of about 3,000 homes south of Denver. Nuzum faults Xcel for not doing a better job of long-range planning and considering where it must place power lines. Instead, it keeps packing more power lines into one corridor, she said. Xcel goes through a planning process every three or four years, trying to determine its future needs, Stutz said. He said they couldn’t plan for this power line until the PUC approved a new electricitygenerating unit in Pueblo, which occurred in December. Todd Dahlberg said that as long as Xcel continues to build in the existing corridor, he doesn’t have a problem with it. “We consider that a better option than going out and finding a new corridor,” said Dahlberg, president of the Three-County Community Coalition, which formed several years ago to oppose Xcel’s plan to pursue a new corridor on the eastern plains. Pueblo County residents may feel differently. Although Xcel has an established corridor from Denver to Midway, it must acquire land for the line from Midway to the station in Pueblo. A route has not been set, and Stutz said officials are examining several options. “We haven’t reached the point where we’ve announced those corridors publicly,” he said. The company has the power to force landowners to sell but hesitates to exercise it, Stutz said. People who can’t attend the public hearing may submit written comments to the Public Utilities Commission, 1580 Logan St., Office Level 2, Denver, CO 80203. Comments should be addressed to Docket No. 05A-000E. The deadline is June 22.