E.M.F. Three little letters that strike terror into many hearts, but why?
Donna Shay, a Colorado citizen, asked Western to conduct an electric and magnetic field reading at her cabin that sits just outside a 115-kilovolt transmission line’s right-of-way. EMF readings determined about 1 milliGauss of exposure near her front door.
Mostly, it’s because we don’t understand electric and magnetic fields, or EMF.
The truth is people come into contact with these fields every day. EMFs occur naturally, like the magnetic field caused by currents deep inside Earth’s molten core. Manmade fields are also created by common appliances and equipment we depend on every day, like talking on a cell phone or heating up lunch in a microwave.
At Western, our high-voltage transmission lines and substations give off EMF, which sometimes concerns landowners with lines over and near their property. To help allay concerns, Western’s electrical engineers will test landowners’ EMF exposures from our transmission lines on request. Read more »
Environmental review and analysis of transmission line projects is an iterative process. A project is proposed; the proposal is reviewed; alternatives are developed; comments are solicited and considered; revisions are made. Then the process repeats.
The Southline Transmission Line Project provides a great example. The Bureau of Land Management New Mexico and Western are co-lead agencies preparing the environmental impact statement for the project. The BLM recently completed meetings with Federal, state and county agencies as part of the process of developing alternatives for the project.
These meetings were an opportunity for the agencies to review the preliminary alternative routes being considered by the BLM and Western for the project and identify concerns and issues with any of the alternative routes. Input from the agencies will be included in the final alternatives development report and keeps the environmental analysis moving forward on schedule.
The BLM and Western expect to complete a draft EIS later this year. That’s when the public will have a chance to review and comment on the draft EIS. Those comments will then be considered as the agencies develop a final EIS.
Have you ever wanted to know more about the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, process and how Federal agencies analyze projects? Here’s a chart that shows the steps in the process. You can also learn more in the NEPA section of the Department of Energy’s website.
Not since 2008 has the Glen Canyon had a high-flow release of water, but on Monday Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar along with Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor were at Glen Canyon to see it happen. Western staff was also present to witness the long-awaited event of the Glen Canyon Dam bypass tubes being opened to initiate the High Flow Experimental release. “The experiment went well thanks to the coordination efforts between DOI and Western,” said Acting Colorado River Storage Project Manger Darren Buck.
On Nov. 19 the Glen Canyon Dam bypass tubes were opened to initiate the High-Flow Experiment.
The experiment, scheduled through 2020, allows for more frequent HFE releases to happen when the right conditions exist. This will determine the effectiveness of multiple HFE releases in rebuilding and conserving sandbars, beaches and associated backwater habitats of the Grand Canyon that have been lost or depleted since the dam’s construction and operation.
For more information about the HFE, see the DOI news release or visit Reclamation’s website.
Also, check out our videos and photos of the event on YouTube and Flikr.
More than 100 electric utilities and industry representatives attended the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10 to12.
Ron Ebenkamp, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, invites Robin O'Day, San Isabel Electric; Ray Pierotti, La Plata Electric; Gary Myers, Poudre Valley; and Craig Tate, Holy Cross Energy, to discuss the major role lighting programs continue to play in utility energy-efficiency portfolios at the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10.
Co-sponsored by Western’s Energy Services office, the networking event provided energy and water utilities serving Colorado and neighboring states an open forum to learn and teach how to implement efficiency, renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management programs with their peers.
Read more »
Western’s customer service territory shares the land with a great diversity of wildlife. Sometimes we even share the borders of our office buildings’ grounds with fascinating and interesting creatures. In the Desert Southwest region’s Phoenix office, employees work while 10 to 15 burrowing owls live just outside their door.
Three burrowing owls watch employees walk by at Desert Southwest’s Phoenix office, just as they do most mornings.
The convenience of being near wildlife brings some happiness to employees. “We all enjoy having [the owls] here at DSW. We have this great opportunity to be close to the wildlife and observe their living habits,” said Supply Technician Mary Bergeron.
As a result of an increasing human population leading to more residential and commercial development on agricultural land and prairies, wildlife species like the burrowing owl lose their natural nesting areas. For safety, health and conservation reasons, displaced owls are often relocated to man-made nesting structures like the one at the DSW yard.
In 2004, the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of relocation efforts of burrowing owls to artificial burrows. They also wanted to establish relocation guidelines and recommendations for future management plans. As part of this study, AGFD monitored up to 50 relocation clusters throughout Arizona, including the one at DSW. On a regular basis, AGFD biologists would collect data on owl behavior, confirm the new burrow system was working, place bands on young birds to track their movements and make sure the site was still suitable for the owls. DSW’s artificial owl burrows are constructed of a PVC pipe system that is buried underground.
Unfortunately, the funding for this project ended after 2007, and the AGFD has not monitored the DSW birds for several years. Even so, DSW’s feathery neighbors are living happy lives today. If a funding source is secured in the future, the AGFD would like to continue monitoring the birds.
Learn more about burrowing owls.
Neighbors, local government officials and Western representatives gathered around a large map during workshop meetings, Oct. 2 to 4, where they discussed options for an upgrade to combine two transmission lines into one right of way. Both lines feed the Town of Estes and other nearby communities in Colorado with energy.
Drawing alternative routes with colored markers, neighbors talked about how different paths for the power line could impact the environment, their neighbors and the scenic views of their town and surrounding national forests. For some participants, it was an educational experience in the complexity of differing views and issues that came up regarding their ideas.
The collective thoughts and considerations of these engaged citizens will help Western Area Power Administration determine the alternatives it will review in its draft environmental impact statement for the Estes-Flatiron Transmission Line Rebuild Project.
Western is preparing to analyze how different alternatives for rebuilding or maintaining the transmission system will provide reliable power and impact the environment, landowners and surrounding communities. With high public interest for this project, Western extended the scoping period through Oct. 19 to work with the local communities to:
- Identify transmission line route options
- Gather input on design/structure features
- Understand the many issues and impacts with any alternative route
If you would like to provide input on route alternatives or structure design, take the time to examine the scoping and alternative development materials and reply to Western by Oct. 19. The input will help Western and cooperating agencies identify alternatives to be analyzed in the draft environmental impact statement.
The Bureau of Land Management recently released the scoping summary report for the proposed Southline Transmission Line project, ending the 90-day scoping period for the project environmental impact statement.
BLM and Western, as joint lead agencies in the preparation of the EIS, held six open houses in New Mexico and Arizona in May during the scoping phase. The scoping phase gives the public the opportunity to learn about a proposed project, share concerns and provide comments on what potential impacts should be analyzed in the draft EIS expected in 2013.
Major concerns discovered during the scoping process included the NEPA process and BLM’s management plan amendment, wildlife impacts and socioeconomic impacts.
Southline Transmission, LLC, proposes to construct, operate and maintain a 360-mile, high-voltage power line from Afton, N.M., to Saguaro substation northwest of Tucson, Ariz. About 240 miles would be new construction of a 345-kilovolt line on mostly BLM land while the rest would be an upgrade to an existing Western line. If completed, the line will add 1,000 megawatts of transmission capacity to the southwest.
On July 31, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the delay of a project to relocate Western’s high-voltage transmission lines near Yellowtail Dam in Montana from August to October because of increased environmental concerns.
“I applaud our hydropower partners at Western for their sensitivity to the potential ramifications of the outage associated with the relocation project,” said Dan Jewell, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Montana Area Office. “While these types of maintenance events are never risk-free, delaying the work until later in the year will help reduce that risk.”
The current location of the lines puts them at risk for the dangerous ice storms that occur in the area over winter, prompting a joint effort between Reclamation and Western to move the lines.
The relocation is scheduled to take about two weeks, and the outage requires Reclamation to bypass the water turbines. With the unusually warm summer and fall, agencies and environmentalists were concerned about the impact of not using the colder water at deeper water levels to power the turbines in August. Alternatives to move the water, including the holo-jets and spillways, could increase nitrogen or water temperature, potentially harming fish.
According to Friends of the Bighorn River blog, “With lake water temperatures already well into the 70′s, a slight mistake, miscalculation or unplanned natural or man-made event could have long lasting, devastating effects on the river where fish are already highly stressed from anglers, low flows, gas bubble trauma, irrigation return, warm water and habitat loss.”
The delay is thought to be a fitting compromise to ensure reliable electricity from Yellowtail Dam this winter and protection of the environment.
As part of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, the seven Basin States (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming) are developing an alternative for the Long Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement (LTEMP EIS). The EIS examines how to operate Glen Canyon Dam to protect downstream resources and maintain water deliveries and power generation. Western is supporting the Basin States by facilitating participation of scientists who are experts in key resource areas, by collecting scientific information and drafting key policy and scientific information in a format that will serve as an alternative for the LTEMP EIS.
The Resource-Targeted, Condition-Dependent Strategy described in the alternative focuses on three key resources:
- Recovering the endangered humpback chub
- Improving the trout fishery at Lee’s Ferry
- Improving or protecting key sediment-based resources (camping beaches, backwater habitat and archaeological site protection) in the Grand Canyon
The Basin States briefed officials of the Department of Interior and delivered this alternative to the co-lead agencies, Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service on July 2. Western, the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association and the Basin States hope that this alternative will be selected as the preferred alternative and ultimately be implemented.
As a result of numerous requests, the Bureau of Land Management is extended the scoping period for the proposed Southline Transmission Line Project. The scoping period, which was scheduled to end June 4, has been extended to end July 5. Western is a co-lead agency on the environmental impact statement.
The Southline Transmission Project would collect and deliver electricity across southern New Mexico and southern Arizona, relieving congestion, strengthening the existing electrical system and improving transmission access for local renewable and other energy sources.
Learn more about the project on BLM’s webpage.