Xcel plan 'good for everybody'

Hayden Town Board supports rail delivery proposal

The Hayden Town Board unanimously approved a resolution Thursday stating it supports coal-delivery options to the Hayden Station Power Plant that minimize impacts on adjacent agriculture operations and residences and supports options that put the impacts of operations on property owned by Hayden Station.

And as the Town Board agreed to support such an option, Hayden Station Director Frank Roitsch announced that the plant has developed a new option that is in accordance with the resolution.

Roitsch said Hayden Station Technical Specialist Glenn Jones developed a plan that involves building a railroad spur through the east side of the Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch, tunneling under U.S. Highway 40 about halfway between its crossing of the Yampa River and the intersection of Routt County Road 27, and extending the rail to a coal unloading facility at the power plant.

Last fall, Xcel Energy, the operator of Hayden Station, proposed several coal-delivery alternatives to their trucking of coal from the Seneca Coal Mines south of the plant. Xcel is seeking alternatives because of uncertainty that Seneca will continue to provide 100 percent of Hayden Station's need of up to 1.8 million tons of coal per year.

While some of the proposed coal-delivery options included building railroad spurs or conveyor belts through conservation-easement-protected private properties or through the heart of Carpenter Ranch, Roitsch and a group of the in-question private property owners said they agreed this was "the best option" and its impacts would be minimal.

"This will cut into our agriculture operations, but we feel we can break through this," said Betsy Blakeslee, outreach coordinator and resident of The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch. "It seems like this takes the heat off of private landowners from some of these options wrecking livelihoods."

Another nearby landowner, Jocko Camilletti, asked Roitsch if this new proposal meant the other proposals were "out the window?"

Roitsch did not say yes, but he said: "We believe this is the best option. It appears to be good for everybody."

Roitsch said the new proposal is appropriate for Xcel because the cost is "reasonably comparable" to the lowest-cost coal-delivery alternative.

"It's close enough," Roitsch said. "What makes it close enough is (that) the neighborhood is saying 'this is what we want.'"

The group of landowners whose property could be affected by possible construction of rail spurs or conveyor belts for coal delivery to Hayden Station have met several times to give input for the resolution the Town Board supported. Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who said he wrote the resolution solely from a concerned landowner's position, said that Hayden Station creating a coal-delivery solution that is publicly acceptable and economically feasible is a great accomplishment for Xcel.

Blakeslee said it is a great accomplishment of the community that it could come together to voice its opinion and ultimately encourage Xcel to seek a new and better option.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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