Forest plan: Lines should be buried | AspenTimes.com

Forest plan: Lines should be buried

Holy Cross Energy’s plan to cut between 300 and 400 aspen trees faces two strikes in the new White River National Forest Plan.

Holy Cross wants to cut the trees for maintenance along a power line on land in the upper Castle Creek Valley designated as a developed recreation site. The public land is located around the Ashcroft Ski Touring complex.

The new forest plan released in June suggests that the management of such land should feature vegetation management that enhances the forest experience for recreation users rather than accommodate power lines.

“Vegetation communities are maintained or improved to provide an eye-pleasing appearance for visitors, complement the recreation value, and provide varied structural stages and plan communities,” says the Land and Resource Management Plan.

Another section of the plan on standards and guidelines for utility corridors encourages burial of certain power lines.

“For permit issuance or reissuance, require burial of electrical utility lines of 33 kilovolts or less and telephone lines … ,” the plan states. Exceptions are when scenic integrity can be maintained with an overhead line or burial isn’t technically feasible.

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Technically, the Holy Cross application isn’t for a new or reissued permit. It is for administration.

The permit for the distribution line was issued approximately four years ago, according to Alan Grimshaw of the Forest Service. It has several years remaining before it expires, he said.

Holy Cross officials have said they don’t want to bury the line because of the expense, not because it’s technically infeasible. They have applied to remove all trees within a 1,200-foot length of the line and remove “hazard trees” along 1.5 miles.

Aspen District Ranger Jim Upchurch is reviewing the request.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]