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Public comment sought on Bayfield-Pagosa transmission line reauthorization

The San Juan National Forest is accepting public comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Tri State Bayfield — Pagosa 115 kV Transmission Line Reauthorization. The existing transmission line extends from Bayfield Substation to Pagosa Substation. The entire transmission line comprises a total of 36.6 miles; 21.4 miles are on the San Juan National Forest. The line crosses through portions of both the Columbine and Pagosa Ranger Districts of the San Juan National Forest in Archuleta and La Plata counties, Colorado.

The purpose of this project is to reauthorize the transmission line special use permit which would allow for continued safe and reliable operation and regular maintenance of the existing transmission line in compliance with Tri State and NERC/FERC standards. Access route improvements are needed to allow for regular scheduled and emergency access to the transmission line by heavy equipment. The power line is the sole power source to the Pagosa Springs area.

The following activities are included in the proposed action:

• Improvement of access routes for transmission line maintenance activities;

• Continued operation and planned/routine maintenance, and emergency practices, associated with the transmission line, which may require large vehicle access;

• Vegetation and noxious weed management for the transmission line ROW and access routes.

Tri-State is proposing to improve existing travel routes and establish new access for maintenance purposes and emergency access. Maintained access is needed for three reasons: annual inspections, routine transmission line maintenance including vegetation management, and response to emergency electrical outages. Depending on the degree access routes need to be improved, Tri-State has identified levels of improvement classifications that range from no improvement to varying degrees of grading and vegetation clearing, including armored low water crossings and permanent culvert installations.

The Draft EA will be available online at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/sanjuan/projects.

For more information, for a hard copy of the EA or for help on how to submit comments, contact Rebecca Smith at 264-2268 or Cam Hooley, Environmental Coordinator, at (970) 884-1414, or visit the above website. The last day for accepting comments is anticipated to be Dec. 12, 2011.

Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record for this proposed action and will be available for public inspection. Any person may request the agency to withhold a submission from the public record by showing how the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) permits such confidentiality. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, those who submit anonymous comments will not be eligible to appeal the subsequent decision.

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