Neighbors raise concerns about power lines at new school site; plans made to shift them slightly north |

Neighbors raise concerns about power lines at new school site; plans made to shift them slightly north

This graphic of the new pre-K through eighth-grade school site in West Steamboat Springs shows the existing power lines in red, and where they will move, in blue.
Image courtesy of Steamboat Springs School District

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With excavation work well underway on the new pre-K through eighth-grade school in West Steamboat Springs, a decision regarding the realignment of power lines across the property was put on pause after some neighbors expressed concerns about the view.

At Monday’s Steamboat Springs School Board meeting, Colleen Kaneda, the school district’s owner’s rep, described different options that were explored regarding those lines, which are above ground. She said the primary reason for relocating the lines is the need to move one distribution line pole in particular off what will become the turf field located on the west side of the new school.

Four options for the pole placement were reviewed by members of the new school’s executive committee and Yampa Valley Electric Association. Kaneda told the school board the committee agreed to pursue a plan she labeled as the “slight realignment” option. One pole only needs to move about 30 feet to the north, Kaneda said, and about four poles will be moved a shorter distance. Kaneda described it as the most minimally invasive option.

Another option would have been to move the line underground. Kaneda said this was not YVEA’s preferred option because of the disruption that can be a result of “porpoising” a line — going from above ground to underground.

And this was not a preferred option for the school district because of the significant increase in cost — somewhere in the neighborhood of five to 10 times the cost of the slight realignment option, Kaneda said. The challenges related to shale in the area are a large part of the unknown range in terms of what it could cost. Kaneda said the committee did not deem this option as a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

Kaneda noted the power lines in question are only distribution lines, not massive steel towers.

Another option would move the lines closer to the surrounding neighborhood by relocating them to the edge of the property’s northern and western borders. This wasn’t a popular choice for anyone.

The fourth option would move the lines to the southern and eastern edges of the property, running in part along U.S. Highway 40.

Eric Scherff, speaking on behalf of a group of Steamboat II neighbors, said this was their preferred option. This plan would move the lines the furthest away from the neighboring subdivisions.

Kaneda said the primary issues with this option would be putting lines right in front of the school and conflicting with the planned solar PV array location.

In addition, this option would cost about 67% more than the slight realignment option, she said, and change the distribution line from five poles to 10.

Kaneda also said moving the lines right in front of the school is not something a developer typically would do.

“Although this option (the slight realignment option) doesn’t improve views from Steamboat II, it also doesn’t significantly change them,” said board member Katy Lee, who serves on the executive committee for the new school. “That’s why we felt like it was a minimal impact.”

Scherff said while the option the district is choosing is not the preference of the homeowners for whom he was speaking, it is less invasive than originally was proposed.

Graphics depicting the different options can be viewed online in the board packet.

Updating the board on all of the bond-funded projects, Kaneda reported that all eight projects are underway in some capacity, either in construction or design.

There is abatement work happening at the Strawberry Park campus and Seventh Street administration building, she said, and utility work underway at Soda Creek Elementary School. The design process is underway for the high school renovations, and next week, user groups will be meeting on the components of renovating the building to better support art, science, innovation and music.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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