Telluride’s power vulnerable to slides |

Telluride’s power vulnerable to slides

Allen Best

TELLURIDE – Potentially devastating to Telluride, are avalanches like the slides that twice knocked down power lines, says Seth Cagin, publisher of The Telluride Watch.They also demonstrate how vulnerable the region’s economy is to a loss of electricity.Last year, an avalanche took out a transmission line near the community of Ophir, causing rolling blackouts for 36 hours in Telluride and at the ski area. Power was knocked out again in mid-January when avalanches knocked down the same line at a different spot.Only circumstances precluded rolling blackouts once again, noted Cagin. Furthermore, had the avalanches occurred in more remote locations, where crews could not gain access, then Telluride might have faced rolling blackouts until spring – spoiling the biggest ski season in several years.Telluride has been warned of its vulnerability for about six years. There are two power lines servicing the region. The larger, 115-kilovolt line (the one knocked out temporarily the last two years) comes from Durango to the south by way of Silverton and Ophir. The smaller line comes from the west.Tri-State Power and Generation wants to replace this smaller line with one providing more capacity, but property owners on the mesas over which it passes have objected. They want the power company to pay for the cost of placing it underground. Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission has ruled that the power company must absorb the cost only to the extent that it’s comparable with replacing the existing and now antiquated line. The property owners may pay the balance.”A ton of studies have been done, and as far as I can tell, there is no good alternative,” says Cagin. While who pays for the underground line gets figured out, Telluride remains vulnerable to not only rolling blackouts, but even to losing power altogether. “We are totally vulnerable to losing our ski season,” he says.The great irony is that Telluride is the world’s birthplace of alternating current, which was discovered by L.L. Nunn early in the 20th century as a way of keeping the mines operating.Vail, Colorado

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