55°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Concerns force changes to VEA power line project

The construction of a Valley Electric Association power line from Beatty to Tolicha Peak to serve the Nevada Test and Training Range is nearing completion, without any disputes or fanfare, though the project was temporarily suspended due to environmental concerns.

It’s unlike the improvements VEA is making to serve the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), where NV Energy asked for an order before the Nevada Public Utilities Commission that the cooperative had to pay an exit fee and file for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

After a number of hearings and filings, the PUC denied NV Energy’s request. Valley Electric is building a new 5.3-mile, 138-kilovolt transmission and Innovation Substation off the newly-completed Northwest Transmission Line from Pahrump.

The PUC is still scheduled to consider whether they have jurisdiction to consider the Mercury switching station improvements.

Construction of the Beatty to Tolicha Peak power line began last spring. The new power line is expected to be completed and in service by summer 2014 after the brief shutdown. VEA will reduce the number of single pole structures from 378 to 326 and will construct a narrower maintenance road 14 feet wide instead of 16 feet.

VEA will not construct three miles of the planned maintenance road to avoid sensitive cultural areas and not construct any staging areas within the right-of-way, originally seven stage areas were planned.

The Beatty to Tolicha Peak Project was the subject of an environmental assessment by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Tonopah Field Office. The project consists of removing portions of an existing distribution line and constructing a new, 24.9-kilovolt double circuit distribution line from the Beatty substation to Tolicha Peak Air Force facilities on the west side of the Nevada Test and Training Range. About 20.5 miles of the power line is located on public land, about 19.6 miles of the power line runs parallel with Highway 95, it would continue for about 11 miles on lands managed by the air force.

VEA submitted a plan of development for the power line Feb. 8, 2011. An environmental assessment was completed the following month; the BLM issued a finding the project would have no significant impacts on April 26, 2011.

But when VEA told the BLM about proposed refinements to the engineering and construction, a suspension notice was sent to Valley Electric on July 3, asking it to cease any work on the H double-pole structures and the use of helicopters to install them until the changes were evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The revised plan of development, submitted Aug. 13, added H-frame structures to aid in avoiding sensitive areas, using a stringing helicopter for the fiber optic line, a helicopter landing and refueling location, using a helicopter for placing five structures in the right-of-way, adding bird diverters to guy wires, adding a raptor protection, and making minor design changes to the insulators, cross arms, conductors, cable shield wire and ground clearances.

The revised EA said surface disturbance activities would be reduced by replacing single pole structures with double pole structures that span greater distances.

Recommended changes were made by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee. The committee recommended adequate spacing between conductors; shield wire would be grounded at regular intervals and bird diverters and covers used when needed.

The structures will be 45 to 70 feet high, with about 18 per mile. The H-frame structures were installed in the hilly terrain, they allow longer wire spans, several locations in culturally sensitive areas required longer spans. Most structures would have a span length of 325 feet.

In a reference to the shooting out of the main 230-kilovolt transmission line from Las Vegas to Pahrump in January 2007 that plunged Pahrump into darkness for 12 hours, VEA is proposing to use gray polymer insulators, which are lighter, easier to install, have a longer service life and aren’t as easily damaged by gunfire.

The updated environmental analysis said, “the construction and operation of the project provides more reliable power to the customers using the line, including the USAF.” It would require VEA to install a small, 10,000-square-foot distribution substation and transformer.

“The overall project would provide reliable, cost-effective electrical energy and communications service to the northwest boundary of the NTTR in an effort to support the Department of Defense missions within the NTTR,” the environmental assessment stated.The BLM cited their mandate under the Federal Public Lands Management Act to manage public lands for multiple uses in a manner that recognizes the nation’s need for reliable electrical energy distribution and support a viable and effective defense system.

The project includes the installation of 21.5 miles of fiber optic line to the new distribution line which provides the U.S. Air Force and VEA with longer distance distribution of communications data, the environmental assessment states that fiber optic line was required by the air force.

Corvus Gold, which has plans for a gold mine north of Rhyolite, paid VEA to allow the company to hook up to the new improvements.

When asked for a comment, VEA was mum about details of the project, including the cost or a timetable for completion.

In a terse statement, the co-op related: “Valley Electric Association was asked by the U.S. government to respond to a request for proposals to provide service to the U.S. Air Force at a facility within VEA’s service territory in Nye County. VEA was happy to be awarded the contract to provide electric distribution and energy services to the facility. VEA is now fulfilling this contract. As a result of the terms of VEA’s agreement with the U.S. government, we are not in a position to provide any additional details about the contract.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
State reports 1,146 new COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths

For the first time since Aug. 14, more than 1,000 new cases were reported in Nevada on Saturday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

USDA works to expand rural broadband

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting applications for funding to provide broadband service in undeserved rural areas. Broadband service is the speed of your internet. This new grant will be available in the year 2021 under the Community Connect Grant program.

Tuatara comes to the finish line on highway 160

The motor of the now record-breaking SSC Tuatara wound down to its final stop along Highway 160, near Tecopa Road, on Oct. 10.

Helicopter crashes into Lake Spring Mountain

No serious injuries were reported following the crash of a helicopter in a lake at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club just after 10 a.m., on Friday morning, Oct. 16.

Nye County waives brothel licensing fees, rejects same request for pot industry

In the face of COVID-19, many businesses in Nye County have seen negative impacts and have been struggling to keep afloat as the pandemic continues to hold sway over government mandated restriction. In a lot of cases, those businesses have been able to turn to federal, state and local programs for assistance but not so for the brothel and marijuana industries, which are barred from utilizing a majority, if not all, of the available programs.

Impact statement for Lee Canyon plans now available

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest on Oct. 9 published the Notice of Availability of the final Lee Canyon Master Development Plan Phase I Environmental Impact Statement for a 30-day review period.

Nursing home group warns of another COVID-19 spike

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately 5 million people each year, released a report today showing nursing homes in the U.S. could see a third spike of increasing new COVID-19 cases because of the community spread among the general population.

WGU enhances B.S. degree program in cloud computing

Western Governors University on Tuesday announced the launch of key updates to its Bachelor of Science cloud computing degree program built in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, Inc. The degree program is designed to prepare students with the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy and meet the demands of employers seeking cloud professionals.

Health guidelines revised for vocal performances

Nevada Health Response has issued a revised version of the “Nevada Guidance for Safe Gatherings” to clarify when vocal performers can remove face coverings.

Nevada gets high marks for computer education

Nevada’s strides in computer science education were recognized Oct. 14 in a report by Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance.