Rail spur proposal again under review | SteamboatToday.com

Rail spur proposal again under review

Melinda Dudley

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners could give final approval this week to a proposed rail spur over U.S. Highway 40 east of Hayden and a broad set of construction-related regulations.

Tuesday night, county commissioners will conduct what could be the final review – and possibly the final approval – of Xcel Energy’s application for a special use permit to build a rail spur to deliver coal to Hayden Station.

The proposed spur would be built along an existing right-of-way off the Union Pacific rail line, crossing U.S. Highway 40 on an overpass and traveling through a portion of The Nature Conservancy-owned Carpenter Ranch.

The major point of contention between Routt County and Xcel Energy is the spur’s crossing over Routt County Road 27.

The draft conditions penned by the County Board of Commissioners would require Xcel Energy to build and solely fund a separated-grade crossing over that road. However, Xcel maintains that the road’s traffic is not significant enough to meet requirements from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and plans to appeal to the PUC for the county to partially fund such a crossing.

The commissioners recently contracted with a law firm who specializes in PUC matters, to represent their interests if Xcel chooses to contest the county’s condition that it pay the entire cost of the separated-grade crossing over County Road 27.

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The board last considered Xcel Energy’s request Sept. 24, but postponed their decision until this week, in part to spend additional time on the wording of the board’s approval.

The conditions and findings enumerated in the decision must be ironclad, so they are legally defensible in the event of an appeal to the PUC, Mitsch Bush said.

10-4 for 1041?

Tonight, commissioners will consider policies known as 1041 regulations, which would give local officials greater control over activities of state interest, such as infrastructure projects.

The regulations involve “the designation of activities of state interest and the adoption of regulations that would govern those activities.” Such regulations are designed to give local government entities a say in projects brought to the county by other entities, such as the trans-basin pipeline proposal from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which renewed previous interest in enacting 1041 regulations in Routt County.

The water diversion proposal would pump Yampa River water from Moffat County to the Front Range, via a pipeline crossing through Routt County.

“It’s a really important set of regulations, in terms of our ability at the local level to have review power,” said Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush.

Without 1041 regulations, the county would have no control over the water diversion project’s pipeline other than normal zoning, she said.

Specified activities that would be subject to 1041 regulations include: site selection and construction of major new domestic water and sewage treatment systems; major extensions of domestic water and sewage treatment systems; site selection and construction of major facilities of a public utility; site selection of airports; and efficient utilization of municipal and industrial water projects.

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