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LPEA seeks permit for substation

La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) is again seeking a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a proposed reconstruction and upgrade of its Ponderosa substation located west of Pagosa Springs.

This time, however, the CUP is being sought for a location owned by Parelli Natural Horsemanship.

A CUP to upgrade the existing substation, located west of Pagosa Springs along U.S. 160, was granted on Aug. 3, 2010, and is good for one year, but construction for the project was put on hold before it began to allow LPEA to assess an alternative, potentially less-controversial site for the substation.

Throughout the CUP process, representatives of the neighboring property owner to the south, Parelli’s, spoke out, expressing concerns over the size and representation of the project as an expansion (no part of the existing structure will remain upon project completion), as well as the damage to the view from the Parelli Ranch, looking north.

As an option to alleviate the view issues, Parelli staff suggested that LPEA use a larger parcel of land located south of U.S. 160, approximately 340 feet from the highway and on Parelli property, which would screen the substation from view of the highway.

As a contingency plan, LPEA was granted an extension of the CUP for the current site.

At a June meeting of the BoCC, the board approved an extension of the current CUP for the project at the existing site in order to give LPEA time to work through the planning process for a possible alternative site without losing the current approval or beginning potentially unnecessary work.

As currently approved, the substation upgrade would be built slightly west of the existing substation and would be located on the same site west of town along U.S. 160. That site would, of course, change should the new CUP be granted.

The approved substation will double the existing 7 MVA (mega volt ampere) capacity to 14 MVA.

In addition to the new CUP approval, LPEA is seeking a height variance from the 40-foot restriction to 48 feet to allow for structural framework and lightning protection, as well as a variance from a detention pond requirement.

The existing substation serves the area from Harman Park south of Pinon Drive and the majority of western Archuleta County. The new substation would increase redundancy to other substations, and will end up serving the Vista and Lake Forest areas, serving approximately 2,750 LPEA customers.

The new CUP application is scheduled to be heard by the BoCC at 1:30 p.m. on July 28 in the courthouse.

Comments may be submitted to the Archuleta County Planning Department prior to the July 28 meeting via mail to P.O. Box 1507, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147 or via e-mail to

Public comment will also be taken at the meeting.

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