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Snowmass council prefers Hidden Valley site for electrical substation

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It’s not if a new 7,200-square-foot substation is going to be built to serve the growing electricity needs of Snowmass Village, it’s where it is going to be built.

And it’s not if a transmission line is going to be built to the new substation, it’s what route the line is going to take, and whether it will be above ground or below ground.

That was a portion of the message that representatives from Holy Cross Energy gave to the Snowmass Village Town Council on Monday. And while the regional energy provider spoke relatively softly through Robert Schultz, a community relations consultant with James Kent Associates of Basalt, it was carrying a big stick.



“If Holy Cross and the local government/s with jurisdiction can agree on a route and substation location, then the decision is likely to be a local one,” Schultz wrote in a Dec. 19 letter to the town. “If it cannot be resolved locally, then the Colorado Public Utilities Commission will have jurisdiction.”

Schultz told the Town Council Monday that any one of six locations around Snowmass Village would work from a technical standpoint, but some were more expensive and complex than others.




After considering sites for the new barnlike substation, a majority of the board members said they preferred a site on town land in Hidden Valley, a small canyon off of Highline Road near the Snowmass Club.

“If I had to pick today, I’d lean toward the Hidden Valley site,” said T. Michael Manchester, the mayor of Snowmass Village.

Veteran board member Doug Mercatoris agreed, saying he thought a site near the Snowmass Center was inappropriate, that proposed locations on the Seven Star Ranch property had negative wildlife implications, that a site in the meadow at the entrance to the Horse Ranch subdivision would be too visible, and that there were too many other proposed uses for the town-owned Rodeo grounds parcel.

But Hidden Valley is not a good spot in some people’s eyes.

“Hidden Valley is a special area,” said Wayne Floyd, who sits on a town board that regulates the town’s cemetery, which is tucked into the upper reaches of the little canyon.

Schultz also told the council that there were a number of options under consideration to run a transmission line into Snowmass Village from the line running up the Roaring Fork Valley.

One potential route was through Cougar Canyon and Wildcat, two subdivisions to the north of Brush Creek Road. But representatives from both subdivisions stood up and told the council that Holy Cross had grossly underestimated the cost of coming through those high-end properties with a transmission line.

Another option is to come up the Brush Creek Valley, which is the most direct route. But the Town Council has been working to keep the corridor more rural than urban.

However, it will cost over $8.5 million to bury the new power line. And Holy Cross isn’t going to pay for an underground line, or for a more high-tech substation. The energy provider will only cover the cost of a basic substation and an above-ground line. Any costs beyond that are the community’s responsibility.

The town of Snowmass Village and Pitkin County have been working on building a new bike path from the Rodeo grounds to Highway 82 through Brush Creek, and the new power line could go under the bike path, which would minimize the visual scar that burying the line would almost certainly leave.

But coming up with the money to bury the line won’t be easy, said Manchester, noting that Snowmass Village would need help from others.

“That’s teamwork,” he said. “That’s cooperation.”

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]


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