By: Rainer Schelp
The endless horizon of the Rockies, majestic herds of elk wandering everywhere you look, hiking a trailhead to discover breathtaking views – the dream of getting out and exploring isn’t a thing of the past and one of the absolute best places for the perfect family expedition is Estes Park, Colorado. That is what Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park is all about for visitors and residents.
On November 5th, some residents of Estes Park received a letter from the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) regarding a proposal to rebuild the Electrical Transmission power lines between Flatiron Reservoir and Estes Park for the purpose of increasing capacity and replacing deteriorating power pole structures. WAPA wishes to combine three separate 115-kV transmission line segments into single right of way. Currently there are redundant power lines including one along Highway 36. The other line runs along Highway 34, which is on the US Forest Service utility corridor that also contains the gas pipeline. WAPA is proposing to deactivate the power line going along Highway 34. (Full map available here).
In order to accomplish the WAPA proposal, the power lines would soar from 55 feet high to 105 feet high.
In many places, the current power lines are about the same height as the trees and are not so much of an eyesore. The proposed new power lines would overshadow the tree line tops, be almost twice as high (105 feet) and will be painfully visible from nearly everywhere.
The current WAPA proposal would route the power lines from Lake Estes up along Highway 36, then up Pole Hill into Roosevelt National Forest and finally to the Flatiron Reservoir. Not only would this affect the views of visitors entering Estes Park along Highway 36, giving it more of an industrial look, it would also adversely affect hundreds of families living along the route of the proposed power lines.
WAPA has the power to make better choices. One such option would be to run the power lines along the existing US Forest Service Utility corridor off of Highway 34 through Roosevelt National Forest. This solution has the advantages of a shorter and possibly less expensive power line route, reduced impact on families, lessening industrial intrusion on the stunning scenery that is the heartbeat of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Finally, WAPA should seriously consider putting the power lines along Lake Estes underground. This will preserve the integrity of our spectacular environment while still meeting the power needs of the community.
The residents of the Town of Estes Park as well as the Town itself should work in harmony with WAPA to develop a solution that protects our environment, meets the Estes Valley power needs, and safeguards the well being of the families directly affected.
Time is short since WAPA currently plans to close public comment in January 2012.