Pitkin County Open Space and Trails has granted use of part of Emma Open Space to facilitate repairs to the transmission lines damaged by the Lake Christine Fire.
Xcel Energy has requested use of a freshly cut hayfield adjacent to the Emma Schoolhouse at Hwy. 82 and Sopris Creek Road for an emergency staging area. The land is part of an agricultural lease used by Two Roots Farms, which is growing vegetables at Emma Open Space. The hayfield is outside of the cultivated area in use by the grower’s operation and Two Roots has agreed to its use.
Xcel has indicated it will use the property for one to three weeks, while its crews work to repair damaged infrastructure.
“We are extremely appreciative of Open Space and Trails for allowing us to use the staging area to help keep the lights on,” said Mike Diehl, manager of siting and land rights for Xcel Energy in Denver. The property may see use as soon as this weekend. Work will commence as soon as materials arrive, he said.
Diehl said he logged onto Google Earth, a 3D mapping website that uses satellite imagery, to search out potential locations for the energy company’s staging operations once he heard about the damage caused by the wildfire.
“I got a call yesterday that our lines were on the ground. I don’t like that call,” he said.
Emma Open Space is a short distance to the southwest of an electrical substation on Basalt Mountain that contains significant transmission and distribution facilities. High-voltage lines feed into the substation from Xcel, which sells bulk power to Holy Cross Energy, the local electric provider. Lower-voltage lines carry electricity for the Holy Cross distribution network, Diehl explained.
The wildfire started Tuesday, July 3, at the Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range, located near the substation. Three of four transmission lines are out of service because of the fire and Holy Cross Energy has indicated power outages are possible.
Xcel will use Emma Open Space for bucket trucks, transmission poles, conductor reels and helicopter operations. The company has agreed to compensate Pitkin County for any damage to the property.
“Pitkin County wants to facilitate the repairs to ensure a reliable power supply for the valley,” said Open Space and Trails Director Gary Tennenbaum. “Two Roots Farms was very gracious in agreeing to let Xcel stage its operations within their lease area.”
Gary Tennenbaum, Director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, 970-309-4704
Mark Stutz, Xcel Senior Media Representative, 303-294-2300