Archive for the 'Transmission' Category

BLM releases draft EA on Montrose-Nucla-Cahone Transmission Project

– Rebuild of 80-Mile Line Will Support Regional Growth, Boost Grid Reliability

– Tri-State’s Preferred Alternative Would Promote Safety, Minimize Impacts on Grouse Habitat

 telecomchopper250WESTMINSTER, Colo. – Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., a wholesale power supplier owned by 44 member electric cooperatives and public power districts, said today that it is encouraging the public to review a recently-released federal environmental analysis of the proposed Montrose-Nucla-Cahone (MNC) Transmission Upgrade Project. The company is also urging interested stakeholders to take advantage of a 30-day public comment period by expressing support for the utility’s preferred alternative for rebuilding the transmission line.

 Tri-State is proposing to rebuild and increase the capacity of the 80-mile MNC line that serves communities across southwestern Colorado, not only to replace aging infrastructure and increase grid reliability, but also to help meet new electricity demand. The existing 115 kilovolt (kV) line, in place for almost 60 years, will be replaced by a new 230 kV line and supported by a new substation and upgrades at two existing substations. The project will also replace fiber optic cable that is located on the existing line to ensure continued reliable emergency communications and broadband service for the region.

According to Tri-State Senior Vice President of Transmission Joel Bladow, the new line will benefit Tri-State’s members and the communities they serve. “Tri-State studied multiple ways to address the aging infrastructure, improve reliability and meet significant new demand in the region, and we determined that the MNC project was the best option,” said Bladow. “The upgraded line will help us meet the needs of our members for years to come.”

Because the existing line crosses lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the MNC project requires the completion of an Environmental Assessment (EA).

On Nov. 3, the BLM released a draft EA, triggering a 30-day public comment period (running through Dec. 3) that provides opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed alternatives and project benefits.

The draft EA identifies three construction alternatives. Under “Alternative A,” Tri-State’s preferred option, the utility would rebuild the line largely within the existing transmission line corridor – with the exception of diverting the current crossing of the Dolores River in western Dolores County to a new location approximately one mile downstream. The re-route is proposed to address safety, access and erosion concerns.

Bladow explained that the new crossing point would be more accessible, making it safer for construction and maintenance workers. “Safety is a top priority at Tri-State, but the existing span across the Dolores River creates real challenges for our maintenance staff. The northern takeoff point is located on steep, narrow, rocky terrain that is extremely difficult to access with vehicles and equipment for needed maintenance,” he said. “We are hopeful the BLM, Forest Service and other stakeholders will recognize that our proposed alternative offers a safer and more desirable location and will reduce erosion concerns by removing the current alignment from highly erosive soils.”

The other alternatives in the draft EA involve taking no action at all to improve the existing line – which would lead to further deterioration of the critical infrastructure, increase risk for electrical outages and threaten future service capacity – and diverting the existing corridor to accommodate a remnant population of Gunnison sage-grouse in the Dry Creek Basin in central San Miguel County. The BLM has proposed relocating 7.6 miles of line from its current route through the basin to a new alignment located along State Highway 141; the relocation would create an additional 1.3 miles of disturbance through Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat.

As part of the 30-day public comment period on the draft EA, the BLM will host a public open house on Nov. 16 at Dove Creek High School in Dove Creek, Colo., from 5 to 7 p.m. Information is also available at the BLM’s project Web page:

In addition, Tri-State has established a website at to provide updated information on the project and to facilitate the submission of comments to the BLM.

 About Tri-State

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a wholesale power supplier, operating on a not-for-profit basis, to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts serving approximately 1.5 million consumers throughout a 200,000 square-mile service territory across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. In 2015, Tri-State was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as Wind Cooperative of the Year.

 Media Contact:

Drew Kramer

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association

O: (303) 254-3086

C: (303) 681-1341



NM jury affirms cooperative business model in Las Conchas fire trial

A jury in the Sandoval County District Court affirmed that Tri-State is not responsible for the actions of Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative, Inc. (JMEC), one of its 44 member distribution cooperatives, in a trial stemming from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire in New Mexico.

During the trial, Tri-State maintained it had a strong legal position in the case regarding its operations being separate from JMEC and the members of the jury agreed. The jury supported the cooperative’s arguments that JMEC and Tri-State did not operate as a joint venture or joint enterprise.

“We appreciate the jury’s recognition of the cooperative business model and that JMEC and Tri-State operate independently,” said Lee Boughey, senior manager of communications and public affairs for Tri-State.

The jury found JMEC, Tri-State and the United States Forest Service were comparatively negligent in the Las Conchas fire.

“Tri-State is disappointed with the negligence verdict, but we are nonetheless thankful to the jury for the time they have devoted to the trial,” said Boughey.

Tri-State maintains it had a strong defense and the correct legal position in the case and will consider all of its legal options.

The trial in the Sandoval County District Court began Oct. 1. The civil lawsuit was filed by a number of plaintiffs, including the Cochiti and Jemez pueblos, against JMEC and Tri-State for damages stemming from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. The issue of the amount of damages, if any, will be determined in a later trial.

The fire started when an aspen tree, located on private land approximately 50 feet beyond the edge of JMEC’s 20-foot right-of-way for an electric distribution line, fell into JMEC’s line during a period of strong winds. The U.S. Forest Service granted the right-of-way easement to the cooperative to operate the line.

“In this case, a tree located far from the line’s right-of-way and in apparently healthy condition was blown over by a wind gust,” said Boughey. “Given the tree’s location and condition, it could not have been identified by JMEC as posing a threat to the line.”

During the trial, both JMEC and Tri-State argued that JMEC was not negligent and followed distribution cooperative industry standards and practices for line clearance and tree trimming.

The jury found JMEC 75 percent negligent, Tri-State 20 percent negligent and the US Forest Service 5 percent negligent.

“Utilities operate power lines and maintain rights-of-way to ensure safety and to protect their communities,” said Boughey. “We feel deeply for those in the Cochiti and Jemez pueblos and the other plaintiffs who were affected by the fire.”

DOE has plan to double energy productivity by 2030

power-grid250The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has published a strategic plan designed to help meet the Obama administration’s goal of doubling the nation’s energy productivity within the next 15 years.

The report, “Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030: A Strategic Roadmap for American Energy Innovation, Economic Growth and Competitiveness (,” posits that families will be able to power their homes and vehicles using less energy, while businesses boost manufacturing at a lower cost and reduce harmful emissions.

Strategies include having states secure energy productivity through vehicle and product codes and standards, providing energy performance information to consumers and redesigning energy rates and policies.

The plan calls for the federal government to invest in research and development in transportation, building and manufacturing sectors. At the state level, representatives can pursue policies to encourage greater energy efficiency; promote new and innovative financing for investments that support energy productivity and incentivize increased deployment of combined heat and power.

Electric utilities can modernize grid infrastructure through “smart grid investments and improving the efficiency and interoperability of generation,” the report finds, in addition to investments in transmission, storage and distribution.


Volunteer linemen needed in Haiti next month

Haitipic250The National Rural Electric Association’s (NRECA) International Foundation has asked for our help in putting out a call for volunteer Class A certified journeymen linemen to travel to Haiti between Sept. 5-29 to assist in bringing electricity to the rural communities of this Caribbean nation.

In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake brought massive destruction to the island country, killing more than 230,000 people, injuring 300,000 and leaving more than a million inhabitants homeless.

If you are a qualified lineman, have availability between Sept 5-29, the NRECA International Foundation needs your help in Haiti. No previous international experience is necessary. If you are interested or would like to learn more about this program, contact Maria Wimsatt at or call 703-907-5645.

The NRECA International Foundation is the charitable arm of NRECA and helps to bring electricity and its inherent benefits to the people of rural areas in developing countries.

The foundation delivers electricity to developing countries by coordinating and supporting co-op employees throughout the U.S. Co-ops participate by sending employees who volunteer their skills, donating used vehicles and electric equipment and providing funding.


Telcom team stays sharp with continuous training

telecom250Safety is always a key area of focus for Tri-State, as evidenced through the continuous safety training Tri-State teams complete. And in support of that goal, the telecommunications crews recently completed their annual telecom tower rescue certification.

“The tower rescue training is required before the teams can work on the towers,” said Jaime Leal, transmission maintenance manager, east.

Over the course of two weeks, teams from each of the regions came together for small-group training on the rescue techniques they would use in the event there was an emergency while a team member was on the tower.

The training was a success, thanks to the teamwork of Marty Burrier, field training specialist; the telecom maintenance superintendents from all regions: Joey Livingston from the east, Tommy Chavez from the south and Jerry Quinn from the west; and all of the participants.

Tom Penner, journey level lineman, and Clint White, field training specialist, also contributed to the training, having recently conducted Tri-State’s fall protection training for the transmission maintenance teams.

“Tom and Clint came out to help everyone get comfortable with the new rescue devices—helping everyone to be more efficient and safe,” said Leal.

Transmission West hosts demonstration of rope access live-line maintenance

Kyleonharness (2)On June 30, with temperatures in the high 90s, Tri-State’s Montrose-based line maintenance crews (as well as Cheyenne-based personnel) climbed into their bare hand suits and scaled a 150-foot steel transmission tower on the association’s Montrose to Grand Junction, 345-kV line to replace a broken insulator string and demonstrate rope access live-line procedures to visiting utility personnel, including two guests from as far away as England.

Tri-State’s line crews are among the industry leaders in this unique procedure, which is used primarily in situations where the rugged terrain at a site doesn’t allow for the use of aerial bucket trucks and other ground support equipment typically used in tansmission line maintenance.

“The main difference in this rope access procedure of live-line work is that instead of our crews working out of a bucket truck or off of a hot stick ladder they are dangling from a rope harness in the air to conduct their work,” explained Mac Fellin, West-side transmission maintenance manager.  “Ultimately this procedure is safer than the conventional method, reduces time in setup and preparation and results in lower maintenance costs overall,” he added.

Attendees at the demonstration included transmission personnel from Western Area Power Administration, Salt River Project, Bonneville Power Administration, Nebraska Public Power District and two linemen from National Grid Company, based in England.

Aerial installation of optical ground wire on Tri-State line wraps up this month

The helicopter, among other tasks, is used to hoist the travelers shown in the photo to transmission line structures, where they are attached for pulling the optical ground wire from one structure to the next.

The helicopter, among other tasks, is used to hoist the travelers shown in the photo to transmission line structures, where they are attached for pulling the optical ground wire from one structure to the next.

If climbing transmission towers for a living sounds daunting then consider the adrenaline rush that must factor into the job of crews that rely on a specially designed, high altitude helicopter that dangles them above the nearly inaccessible (by road) mountainous terrain to reach the transmission line towers of a Tri-State line near scenic Silverton, Colo.

The contractor crew’s  job is to remove the existing static line on a 17-mile segment of the association’s Cascade-Silverton 115-kV line from the Durango Mountain Resort to the west side of Silverton and replace it with an optical ground wire that contains a core of fiber optic strands for upgraded communications and broadband services to the area.

The contractor performing the work on Tri-State’s line is Atkinson Power LLC, based in Bethesda, Maryland. The project is being funded by EAGLE-Net Alliance. EAGLE-Net is a Broomfield, Colo.-based intergovernmental entity which operates a cost-sharing cooperative that delivers a carrier quality broadband network to more than 170 communities in Colorado. Continue reading ‘Aerial installation of optical ground wire on Tri-State line wraps up this month’

Father’s Day weekend storm damages two Tri-State lines

Significant storm damage impacting more than 7 miles of line and structures required line crews and considerable fleet equipment (shown) on site.

Significant storm damage impacting more than 7 miles of line and structures required line crews and considerable fleet equipment (shown) on site.

Some of the association’s transmission maintenance crews had to postpone their Father’s Day weekend celebrations last month to respond to a call for emergency line repairs in the wake of a massive storm that damaged two Tri-State lines in eastern Colorado on the evening of June 14.

Robert Rojas, senior manager of transmission maintenance, provided a brief presentation on the storm event and subsequent line damage to Tri-State’s board during last week’s monthly meeting in Westminster.

According to Rojas, a severe storm moved into the Burlington, Colo., area during the early evening of June 14. The storm first struck Tri-State’s Big Sandy to Landsman Creek 230-kilovolt line at around 6:20 p.m., inflicting heavy damage to about 7 miles of line and 29 H-frame structures. However, no load was lost to local member K.C. Electric Association (Hugo, Colo.).  About 30 minutes later the storm continued to track to the northeast when it struck Tri-State’s 115-kilovolt Burlington to Bonny Creek line, taking out two structures and causing a 20-megawatt load loss to K.C. Electric. Continue reading ‘Father’s Day weekend storm damages two Tri-State lines’

Continental Divide Electric and Tri-State secure sale to Gallup, N.M.

Continental Divide Electric Cooperative (shown) and Tri-State will begin selling power to the city of Gallup, N.M this summer.

Continental Divide Electric Cooperative (shown) and Tri-State will begin selling power to the city of Gallup, N.M this summer.

Once again, the cooperative spirit of consumer-owned cooperative power has brought another success story to the Tri-State membership family. In this case, it was a three-party collaboration between Tri-State, its member, Continental Divide Electric Cooperative (Grants, N.M.), and the nearby city of Gallup, which was in search of a competitive priced electric power supplier to serve its community of approximately 21,000 residents for an eight-year term beginning this summer.

According to, Michael Martin, Tri-State’s business development manager for energy markets, the city of Gallup issued a request for proposal last fall in anticipation of replacing the power supply contract set to expire at the end of June 2014.

“Continental Divide expressed interest in collaborating on a proposal that they ultimately submitted to city officials in November,” explained Martin. That collaboration is essentially an arrangement in which Tri-State will sell the power to Continental Divide and Continental Divide will, in turn, resell that power to the city of Gallup. Continue reading ‘Continental Divide Electric and Tri-State secure sale to Gallup, N.M.’

Tri-State salutes its linemen

National-Lineman-Day-2014Today, April 18, is National Lineman Appreciation day and Tri-State honors all the dedicated linemen who work hard, under all sorts of weather conditions to keep the lights on.

There are currently 43 linemen within Tri-State’s transmission maintenance group who keep the power flowing over the association’s 5,300-mile transmission network. Add to that cadre of high voltage professionals the scores of linemen on call 24-hours-a-day to maintain the distribution lines of the 44 member systems that comprise Tri-State’s membership and ultimately provide electricity to more than 1.5 million people in four states.

Tri-State thanks its hardworking linemen for all they do!

Tri-State employee authors article on ‘rope access’ live-line procedures

TSlinemenTom Penner, journey level linemen, based at the Craig, Colo., transmission facility, has written an article that has just been published in Transmission and Distribution World magazine on a relatively new live-line procedure known as “rope access” that has proven to be as safe and efficient method for Tri-State’s transmission maintenance crews to perform work on energized lines.

Click here to read the article.

New substation brings improved service to Laguna Pueblo tribe in N.M.

Siting, securing the land rights, constructing and finally commissioning a new substation can sometimes be an arduous and, at times, even a contentious process. But, thankfully, that was not the case when Tri-State, member Continental Divide Electric Cooperative (Grants, N.M.) and the Laguna Pueblo Tribal Council worked together to improve electric service on their reservation.

Continental Divide’s board president, Keith Gottlieb (left) greets Richard Luarkie, Governor of Pueblo of Laguna tribal council at the ribbon cutting ceremony for a new substation.

Continental Divide’s board president, Keith Gottlieb (left) greets Richard Luarkie, Governor of Pueblo of Laguna tribal council at the ribbon cutting ceremony for a new substation.

The culmination of that cooperative spirit and hard work was celebrated recently (March 21) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the brand new Old Laguna Substation serving the nearby Native American village of Laguna, N.M.

The substation ceremony was hosted by Continental Divide Electric and attended by a crowd of about  50 people, including the Governor of the Pueblo and members of Laguna’s tribal council, Continental Divide’s general manager, board members and staff, Tri-State employees directly involved in the project and others who played a role in adding the new substation to the power supply system. Continue reading ‘New substation brings improved service to Laguna Pueblo tribe in N.M.’

Bureau of Land Management releases draft EIS for Tri-State transmission line planned for northern San Juan Basin

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance have recently made available for review and public comment the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 65-mile, 230-kilovolt San Juan Basin Energy Connect Project to be constructed by Tri-State between northwest New Mexico and Ignacio, Colo.

The proposed San Juan Basin Energy Connect Project is expected to be under construction by late 2016.

The proposed San Juan Basin Energy Connect Project is expected to be under construction by late 2016.

The project also includes the expansion of Tri-State’s existing Iron Horse Substation, additions at The Western Area Power Administration’s Shiprock Substation and the construction of two new substations, Kiffen Canyon and Three Rivers, both in New Mexico.

The BLM will host two public meetings during the 45-day draft EIS public comment period on April 8 in Ignacio, Colo., and April 9 in Farmington, N.M.

The new line is needed to alleviate the strain that increasing electric load growth in the San Juan Basin areas of Colorado and New Mexico have caused on the region’s existing electrical system.

Among the project’s objectives are to improve electric system reliability, provide additional electric system capacity to support Tri-State member La Plata Electric Association’s (LPEA) requested capacity, as well as directly improving the load serving capability of the electric systems serving members LPEA, Empire Electric Association and San Miguel Power Association. Continue reading ‘Bureau of Land Management releases draft EIS for Tri-State transmission line planned for northern San Juan Basin’

Line crews to test new Linetrac dozer on difficult access jobs

As in most jobs, it is important to have the proper tools to complete the task safely and efficiently. That is the idea behind Tri-State’s plan to lease a line maintenance machine — the Linetrac 830G — that combines a digger/derrick truck and a man lift vehicle on a bulldozer platform.


The Linetrac 830G will be a welcome addition to Tri-State’s transmission maintenance equipment fleet.

This unique, multi-task machine is well suited to assist crews in tackling a list of necessary maintenance projects that are located in difficult access and environmentally sensitive areas of the service territory.

Tri-State’s board of directors authorized the one-year lease of the Linetrac during the Dec. 3-4 board meeting held in Westminster. Greg Britton, acting senior manager of transmission maintenance, provided a detailed presentation on this machine at the Dec. 3 engineering and operations board committee meeting. Continue reading ‘Line crews to test new Linetrac dozer on difficult access jobs’

New Burlington building will consolidate generation and transmission personnel

Construction of a new Tri-State field facility in eastern Colorado that will consolidate the Burlington-based transmission maintenance crew members and generation personnel at Burlington Station at one site is progressing on schedule this fall.

Construction is on schedule for a spring 2014 completion of the Burlington Generation and Transmission Maintenance Facility in eastern Colorado.

Construction is on schedule for a spring 2014 completion of the Burlington Generation and Transmission Maintenance Facility in eastern Colorado.

The new building, referred to as Burlington Generation and Transmission Maintenance Facility, replaces an outmoded generation building at Burlington Station. “We moved the Burlington Station personnel to an adjacent, temporary building about a year-and-a-half ago,” said Ben Mayer, Tri-State’s general facilities manager.

The four members of the Burlington transmission maintenance crew are currently based at a leased facility in the nearby town of Burlington. Transmission maintenance personnel, along with the five generation employees at the plant site, are expected to move into their new building once it is completed in March of 2014. Continue reading ‘New Burlington building will consolidate generation and transmission personnel’

Tri-State trainers to certify 95 crane operators

Tri-State has a large fleet of smaller service crane trucks like this one, which is capable of lifting up to 5 tons of capacity.

Tri-State has a large fleet of smaller service crane trucks like this one, which is capable of lifting up to 5 tons of capacity.

Up to 95 employees working in transmission maintenance, construction services and at Tri-State’s generating facilities will receive in-house training and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-mandated certification for operating the G&T’s fleet of approximately 35 boom, crane and service vehicles in 2014, according to Clint White, Ogallala, Neb.-based transmission field training specialist and coordinator of the new training program.

“The new training plan was prompted by a combination of new certification regulations that are being phased in by OSHA over the next several years and the fact that our own trainers have found the need for additional instruction on this equipment during our annual competency exercises,” said Jim Griff, transmission maintenance manager of support services.

“In putting this program together, we worked closely with Tri-State’s safety group to make sure that all aspects of our certification program are in compliance with all of the soon-to-be enacted OSHA safety regulations,” Griff noted. However, he was also quick to point out that the first priority of the program will be “to keep our crane operators and those employees working around them safe at all times.”

The certification training will be for two separate levels of lifting capacity. The first level, which will target more than two-thirds of the trainees, will be for a lifting capacity of less than 21 tons, while the second level, designed primarily for line crews and construction services personnel, will be for operating the association’s larger equipment capable of lifting up to 75 tons of capacity. Continue reading ‘Tri-State trainers to certify 95 crane operators’

Jemez Mountains Electric trims trees and outages

Jemez-tree-trimmingSince Tri-State member system Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative (Espanola, N.M.) adopted a formal vegetation management program in 2012, it has achieved a drastic reduction in outages.

While the program is still in its infancy, the cooperative already is experiencing positive, impactful results — the number of outages has decreased nearly 26 percent. [Read more from Transmission and Distribution World]

Tri-State construction services crews tackle a flurry of system projects

Summertime is always a busy period for Tri-State crews and contractors as they focus on the favorable weather window to complete a long list of necessary improvements at the various membership delivery points around the system before the snow starts to fly.

Cheyenne and Sidney-based construction services crews install new circuit breakers at the Big Sandy Substation.

Cheyenne and Sidney-based construction services crews install new circuit breakers at the Big Sandy Substation.

Earlier this week, Tri-State’s e-Newsbreaker staff caught up with construction services superintendent Jeff Lines at the Limon, Colo., substation to find out about some of the projects that he and his 13-member team of specialists have on their collective plate for the remainder of the summer and fall.

Lines oversees three construction teams based in Cheyenne, Wyo., Sidney, Neb., and a New Mexico crew based at Rio Rancho.

The west-side transmission maintenance crews, which are managed by Mac Fellin in Montrose, Colo., have their own group of construction specialists to tackle projects for Tri-State’s western system.

The east-side construction crews recently wrapped up a project at Vernon Tap, near Wray, Colo., which entailed the installation of new breakers and other reconstruction activities. That site was re-energized during the past week. Continue reading ‘Tri-State construction services crews tackle a flurry of system projects’

Tri-State’s maintenance crews play key role in keeping power flowing across four states

Keeping the power flowing across more than 5,300 miles of transmission line and hundreds of substations, along with caring for the association’s vast telecommunications network around the clock, falls on the shoulders of a key cadre of 200 Tri-State men and women comprising transmission maintenance, as well as the 14 members of the construction services group.

The Montrose administration facility serves as the hub of the association’s west-side transmission maintenance group.

The Montrose administration facility serves as the hub of the association’s west-side transmission maintenance group.

In addition to a long list of improvement projects that are underway this summer, these crews are responsible for maintaining 184 battery systems, 629 circuit breakers, 526 revenue meters, 1,129 relay schemes and 258 transformers, just to name a few of their daily duties. And that list continues to grow as Tri-State transfers member assets to its maintenance inventory under a policy approved by the association’s board of directors.

In order to efficiently service and maintain Tri-State’s power delivery and communications systems across the association’s 200,000-square-mile member service territory, the G&T’s transmission maintenance and construction crews are stationed at 22 field locations within three Tri-State regions.

Anchoring the eastern region is the Northern Colorado Maintenance Center in Frederick, Colo. As east-side transmission maintenance manager, Greg Britton oversees line, substation and telecom crews based throughout Wyoming, eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. Among the larger east-side field facilities are Cheyenne, Wyo., with a total of 19 employees and Brush, Colo., where nine Tri-Staters are based. Continue reading ‘Tri-State’s maintenance crews play key role in keeping power flowing across four states’

High West Energy to build new line into Colo.

High-WestTri-State member system High West Energy (Pine Bluffs, Wyo.) will soon be building a $7.3 million, 30-mile transmission  line to Weld County in northern Colorado.

The line will run from the east side of Cheyenne to near Hereford, Colo., to service a gas processing facility owned by EOG Resources. “This allows us to get facilities to Weld County where we had few other facilities prior,” High West general manager Brian Heithoff said.

Tri-State crews complete line restoration at Black Forest fire site

Tri-State line crews replace a burned down structure on the Black-Squirrel-Meridian Line. It was returned to service at 10 p.m. on June 14.

Tri-State line crews replace a burned down structure on the Black-Squirrel-Meridian Line. It was returned to service at 10 p.m. on June 14.

Tri-State’s east-side maintenance crews from Ogallala, Neb., Brush, Colo., and Cheyenne, Wyo., headed home this past Sunday morning (June 16) after a busy weekend of repairing sections of transmission line that were damaged by the Black Forest fire.

As of Tuesday morning (June 18), Colorado’s most destructive wildfire to date had claimed two lives and destroyed more than 500 homes — most of which were on the lines of Tri-State member co-op Mountain View Electric Association.

“We still have some clean-up to do and once the fire is out we will go back in and assess the various line right-of-ways to determine whether additional trees need to be cut that may pose a hazard to our lines,” said Greg Britton, Tri-State’s east-side transmission maintenance manager.

Tri-State crews replaced torched structures on two of Tri-State’s lines impacted by the fire and also completed repairs on Mountain View’s 115-kV Black Forest Tap line damaged by the blaze.

Tri-State business continuity analyst Dave Sayles reported earlier this week that Tri-State lines that were affected by the Black Forest fire have been restored and energized. He also noted that he is monitoring multiple fires that are active in Tri-State’s service territory; however, so far none of them are burning near any of Tri-State’s system assets.

Tri-State linemen provide “higher learning” for students at Mesa Hotline School

With the help of Tri-State instructors, Mesa Hotline School students perform maintenance on an H-frame structure.

With the help of Tri-State instructors, Mesa Hotline School students perform maintenance on an H-frame structure.

You can learn a lot in classrooms, through online computer instruction and hours of study, but when it comes to being a lineman there are some techniques that are best taught in the rarified air aloft, where most line crews spend at least a portion of their work day.

That is the idea behind the Grand Junction, Colo.-based Mesa Hotline School, which holds two one-week sessions in which students climb structures or man aerial buckets to simulate real world line maintenance scenarios, with the help of utility and electric industry instructors who definitely know the ropes in this business.

“Students at the school learn to change out a cross-arm, strings of insulator bells, perform a steel tower rescue and many other procedures that are part of a lineman’s routine duties,” explained Clint White, field training specialist at Tri-State’s Ogallala, Neb., field facility. Continue reading ‘Tri-State linemen provide “higher learning” for students at Mesa Hotline School’

Tri-State member San Miguel Power Assn. creates TV ad to honor its linemen

SMPA-LinemenSan Miguel Power Association (Nucla, Colo.) has produced a new television commercial in appreciation of the electric co-op’s linemen (and woman).

According to SMPA communications executive Becky Mashburn, who wrote the commercial, the idea was an easy choice, because it focuses on the co-op’s core business, provides a contrast to energy-themed commercials and demonstrates the importance of what linemen do for the public and the co-op’s employees.

The commercial features six of SMPA’s linemen and the co-op’s staff engineer Bill Riley as the announcer. “It’s been a hit, especially in the industry and with our employees,” Mashburn said. “The linemen have appreciated it.”

SMPA has produced and aired commercials on various television stations in Colorado’s Telluride/Mountain Village region for the past few years. The “SMPA Lineman Tribute” spot is currently airing on Mountain Village Cable and Telluride TV. It’s also posted on the co-op’s Facebook page.

Long-awaited completion of Nucla-Sunshine transmission line is celebrated

Kevin Ritter, San Miguel Power Association general manager, spoke to the collaborative effort of all parties involved in bringing the Nucla-Sunshine line to fruition.

Kevin Ritter, San Miguel Power Association general manager, spoke to the collaborative effort of all parties involved in bringing the Nucla-Sunshine line to fruition.

A transmission line that takes three years to construct and nearly five times that long to conceive, debate, plan and engineer certainly deserves to be celebrated when it is finally electrified into service. Such was the occasion for a March 26 reception in Mountain Village, Colo., recognizing the completion this past November of the 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine project.

The critical line provides an improved level of service and reliability to the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village and other nearby communities in the southwestern Colorado service territory of Tri-State member co-op San Miguel Power Association.

“I remember hearing about a new power line when my son was born – and that was 15 years ago,” said an only half-joking San Miguel county commissioner Joan May, who joined other local elected officials and representatives from SMPA and Tri-State at the afternoon event at Mountain Village Town Hall.

Telluride mayor Stu Fraser noted the urgency for a more reliable redundant power source that grew out of a 2004 avalanche that wiped out the area’s primary 115-kv line. “We said at the time that we can’t let this happen again,” Fraser said, who estimated that the outage caused by that avalanche cost his resort town approximately $250,000 in lost revenue.

The 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine transmission line was built over the past three years and energized this past November.

The 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine transmission line was built over the past three years and energized this past November.

Tri-State vice president/transmission Joel Bladow spoke to the “difficult technical challenges” involved with planning and constructing the line, while SMPA general manager Kevin Ritter discussed the critical collaboration that took place among the utilities, local government jurisdictions and various stakeholders. Other speakers at the reception included Mountain Village mayor Dan Jansen and San Miguel board president Rube Felicelli.

The line is unique to Tri-State’s transmission system in that approximately 10 miles of the power cable was placed underground to satisfy landowners’ concerns. Those concerns and other siting issues delayed the construction of the project for more than a decade.

2013 looks to be a busy year for Tri-State’s transmission team

Editor’s note: The following has been excerpted from a recently published column by Tri-State senior vice president/transmission Joel Bladow that will appear in the spring 2013 issue of Tri-State’s quarterly magazine, Network.

Coyote-Junction-substationTri-State crews and contractors are ramping up for another busy year of transmission maintenance and improvement activities aimed at providing continued efficient and reliable service to our member systems.

Ongoing system improvements are necessary to keep pace with demands on our system and are required to serve the growing loads of our member co-ops.

In 2013 and beyond, increased activity is anticipated in the ongoing asset transfer program that was established in 2010. This is a voluntary program which allows Tri-State’s member systems the option of selling all of their existing power delivery equipment that is 100 kilovolts or greater to Tri-State.

PV-linemen-bucket-truckDuring the next several years, these transactions are expected to double the transformer inventory and add hundreds of miles of transmission and scores of circuit switchers, battery systems, substation control buildings and other equipment owned by our member co-ops.

Also in the pipeline, National Environmental Policy Act and local permitting activities are expected to be completed this year, which will enable construction in 2014 of the 65-mile, 230-kilovolt Burlington to Wray transmission line in eastern Colorado.

CNMIP-transmissionWe also have begun the planning process to provide vital system upgrades to southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The proposed 118-mile, 230-kV San Luis to Carson Transmission Project, which would extend along a southerly route from the San Luis Valley Substation into northern New Mexico, presents an alternative solution to bolstering reliability in that region.

Tri-State is guided in all of these endeavors by the primary goal of improving the performance and efficiency of the entire system while safely and reliably delivering power to our member systems at the lowest possible cost.

Three-year transmission project wrapping up on schedule

The last five miles of underground power cable was installed earlier summer for the Nucla-Sunshine transmission project completed this fall.

The three-year, 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine transmission line project will soon be providing an improved level of service and reliability to the Telluride mountain village area and other nearby communities in southwestern Colorado.

“Construction of the line and its ancillary substations is done and Tri-State’s west-side maintenance personnel are now on site engaged in commissioning activities before the line is energized this fall,” said Pat Dille, transmission project manager.

Dille said that they expect to energize the line by the end of this month or the early part of November in time for the peak wintertime season at this world famous ski resort, which is electrically served by Tri-State member San Miguel Power Association (Nucla, Colo.).

The new line replaced a more than 60-year old, 69-kilovolt line that was owned by San Miguel Power. This antiquated line was no longer adequate to serve the electrical requirements of the Telluride area in the event that its primary 115-kilovolt line failed due to avalanche or other extreme weather events.

The 51-mile Nucla-Sunshine transmission line will boost reliability to the Telluride area when it becomes operational at the end of this month.

This line is unique to Tri-State’s transmission system because approximately 10 miles of the new 115-kV power cable was placed underground in order to satisfy landowners’ concerns. Those concerns and other siting issues delayed the construction of this project for more than a decade.

The scope of the project’s construction activities, which began in 2010, involved the trenching and installation of 10 miles of underground power cable on Wilson and Specie mesas and 41 miles of overhead line construction across rugged high country terrain that required some specialized engineering and helicopter work where, in several cases, the line spanned across canyons that are nearly a half-mile wide.

In addition, the new line and upgraded service required the construction of two new substations and extensive modifications at two existing substations.

Cheyenne maintenance crew tries out new insulator testing equipment

Tri-State’s east-side line personnel conducted field exercises with new insulator diagnostic equipment on LRS-Story line.

Some transmission personnel from Tri-State’s Cheyenne maintenance facility were on site this week on the 345-kilovolt Laramie River Station to Story Substation right-of-way northeast of Cheyenne to conduct field exercises on insulator testing devices provided by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), based in Palo Alto, Calif., and Positron Inc., based in Canada.

Tri-State is a member of EPRI, which is a research and development organization in support of advancing new technologies in the electric utility industry. As such, the association was the recipient of one of the institute’s new insulator testing devices with the capability of testing the operating performance of polymer insulator strings when they are either in or out of service.

Most of the available insulator testing equipment in use is only designed to test porcelain or glass-based insulators. Tri-State uses both polymer and porcelain insulators on its transmission system; however, many new transmission lines are designed for polymer insulator applications, according to Linwood Blacksmith, east-side line superintendent.

“Also, we’re finding that some of the insulators that are being shipped to us from foreign countries are of inferior quality and may require testing before they are placed in service, which makes the EPRI tester useful to us,” said Tyson Lies, Wyoming line foreman.

Tri-State linemen Travis Berg and Dustin Thompson test an insulator string on the LRS-Story line.

Another company, Positron, was also on site this week to offer its line insulator testing products to the line crew members in Cheyenne. After a briefing and electronics set-up session at the field office, Lies and his crew proceeded to the energized LRS-Story line to conduct some real-world testing of the Positron equipment.

Testing insulators on each line phase on the tower required both an aerial platform truck and crew members to climb the tower to access the insulators on the center line phase. The Positron insulator testing device is attached to the end of a “hot stick” (a special fiberglass pole for working on energized lines) and a device known as a sled is moved across the insulator bells to calculate the electrical field, which helps line personnel determine the integrity of the insulator strings.

Board updated on fire damage to Tri-State’s system

At the July 10-11 board meeting held in Westminster, Joel Bladow, senior vice president of transmission, provided directors with an update on fire damage to Tri-State’s system. As has been reported in recent weeks in Powering the West, tinder dry conditions, high winds and lightning have triggered multiple major fires that have heavily impacted the association’s members, as well as some damage to Tri-State’s transmission lines.

So far this fire season, the Last Chance-South Fork line sustained the most costly damage on the Tri-State system.

By far the most extensive and costly Tri-State fire season damage to date occurred on the Last Chance-South Fork 115-kV line in northeastern Colorado, where a total of 18 line structures were destroyed or damaged by the blaze. Tri-State line crews repaired the line in four days.

Preliminary damage estimates are projected at approximately $240,000, according to Bladow. Tri-State is waiting to hear whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will assist in funding repair costs for this line.

A grass fire also caused some damage to structures on Tri-State’s 115-kV Burlington-Wray line in eastern Colorado. No immediate structure repairs were required on this line, although some repairs may be scheduled at a later date.

In Nebraska, a grass fire damaged eight structures on the 230-kV Sidney-Stegall Line, which is jointly owned by participants in the Missouri Basin Power Project. MBPP encompasses Laramie River Station and its ancillary transmission lines and other assets. Tri-State owns a 24 percent share in this line.

The association’s crews from Ogallala, Neb., Cheyenne, Wyo., and Brush, Colo., were dispatched to the site and completed repairs within three days. Tri-State’s share of the damage to this line is estimated at $42,000.

In Nebraska, the Sidney-Stegall line had eight structures destroyed by wildfire.

In northern Colorado, at the site of the High Park Fire, which did extensive damage to homes and distribution infrastructure on Poudre Valley REA’s system, Tri-State sustained some damage to its telecommunications site equipment on Buckhorn Mountain. Damage is estimated at $26,000.

In southwestern Colorado, a lightning strike damaged equipment at Tri-State’s Cascade Substation. Southwest of the Cascade sub, near Mancos, the 10-acre Weber Fire in Empire Electric Association’s service territory damaged a line on the co-op’s system and destroyed a WAPA communications site, but spared Tri-State’s nearby Menefee communications site. Tri-State’s backup generator at the communications site provided power to assist Empire Electric in making repairs to its system.

Meeting landowners’ concerns critical to successful transmission projects

The Nucla-Sunshine line traverses some of the most spectacular scenery in the West. These peaks are actually the inspiration for the Coors beer can artwork.

Tri-State’s Joe Gallik, senior permitting & land rights specialist, will be the first to tell you that the path to popularity is probably not being the guy who has to tell a landowner that you are going to route a transmission line across his or her private property.

“Some of them would prefer that we just go away, but that isn’t going to happen,” he said. “Our job is to secure from the affected landowners the necessary right-of-way easements for the transmission line and access roads to allow us to construct and maintain a critical transmission line – in this instance the Nucla to Sunshine transmission project in southwestern Colorado.”

While all transmission projects are unique, it is probably safe to say that the 58-mile, 115-kV Nucla-Sunshine line, now in its third and final year of construction, has been among Tri-State’s most challenging – having stalled for more than a decade between initial planning and construction start-up in 2010. It is also the association’s first major transmission line to incorporate a segment of underground cabling (10 miles) to satisfy local landowner concerns.

When it was all said and done, there are 103 landowners that Gallik and others at Tri-State have worked with to secure 160 easement agreements for the Nucla-Sunshine line. That doesn’t include securing the necessary permits for federal lands on which a substantial portion of this line is routed. Continue reading ‘Meeting landowners’ concerns critical to successful transmission projects’

Phase 2 of Delta County line project underway

The second construction phase of a three-phase, 19-mile, 115-kV transmission line connecting several new and upgraded substations in Delta County, Colorado is now underway. The project, which is jointly funded by Tri-State, local member co-op Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.) and the city of Delta, is aimed at improving reliability and is designed to meet increasing load growth in the area.

The transmission system upgrade, which is called the Delta County Transmission Improvement Project, started with the 13-mile Star Nelson Substation to the Doughspoon Substation segment that was completed last year.  Both of the aforementioned substations are newly constructed facilities.

Construction crews are now focusing on extending the line from Doughspoon Substation to Gunnison Valley Substation. This 3.8-mile segment of the line will include a fairly long transmission span crossing the Gunnison River.

The final phase of the project, the 2.5-mile Gunnison Valley Substation to Garnet Mesa Substation line segment, will likely begin in late 2012 or 2013.

Modifications and improvements also are planned for the existing Garnet Mesa and Gunnison Valley substations. The new line crosses U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands for 9.1 miles, private lands within the city of Delta for 2 miles and private lands in unincorporated Delta County for a total of 8 miles.