FARMINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management has opened a 45-day comment period on an environmental study for a proposed 65-mile electric transmission line and substation in San Juan County and southwest Colorado.

The bureau is seeking public comment for a draft Environmental Impact Statement about the San Juan Basin Energy Connect Project. The project would involve building the transmission line from near Waterflow to Igancio, Colo. Comments about the project will be accepted until April 28.

"Once the comment period is over, all the comments will come in and be compiled," said Marcy Romero, BLM project manager.

The draft impact statement is an analysis of environmental effects that could result from the project. The bureau started working on the statement in 2009.

Power lines are pictured on Tuesday across Highway 170 north of Farmington.
Power lines are pictured on Tuesday across Highway 170 north of Farmington. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

"The BLM has been working with its cooperating agencies to respond to the issues raised by the public," said Maureen Joe, BLM assistant field manager. "We feel the draft (Environmental Impact Statement) provides for a balanced approach to resolving these planning issues."

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association officials proposed constructing a 230-kilovolt transmission line that would start near the Shiprock Substation and end at the Iron Horse Substation in Ignacio.

The draft statement indicates two new substations would be built — the Three Rivers Substation near the Shiprock Substation and the Kiffen Canyon Substation, which would be north of Farmington. The plans are to expand the Iron Horse Substation to handle the additional capacity.

"We want to improve our system's reliability," said Sarah Carlisle, a Tri-State spokeswoman.

The proposed transmission line would cross federal, state, tribal and private lands.

Tri-State is a wholesale electric power supplier owned by 44 rural electric cooperatives in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. The project would help Colorado cooperatives, Carlisle said. La Plata Electric Association, Empire Electric Association and San Miguel Power Association, all based in Colorado, would benefit from the proposed transmission line, she said.

Power lines are seen Tuesday across Highway 170 north of Farmington.
Power lines are seen Tuesday across Highway 170 north of Farmington. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

Tri-State owns 8.2 percent of San Juan Generating Station, Carlisle said. She said power for the new line also would come from other sources the company owns.

She emphasized the power for the transmission lines would not be new power generation.

Carlisle declined to specify the exact amount of power that would be available for customers with the new transmission lines.

The transmission line would run parallel to an existing power line maintained by Western Area Power Administration or other existing construction for about 31 miles, which would mostly be on the New Mexico side of the proposed route. About 4.5 miles of the line would be installed on existing poles, and about 29.5 miles would be new construction.

The new construction for the line would be toward the Iron Horse Substation in Colorado, Carlisle said.

Representatives from La Plata Electric and the San Juan Citizens Alliance could not be reached for comment.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.