Summit Public Radio & TV seeks approval to replace 10,500 foot electric cable installed 50 years ago to fix service issues

Peak 6 pictured in 2013 during a powerline installation project using the single-file construction method. Summit Public Radio & TV will be using a very similar method for their powerline installation project, which they are working to get approved by the county. Summit Radio met with Open Space Advisory Council on Wednesday, July 20 2022 to seek approval for a parcel of the county's land they would need to go through with their powerline realignment plan.
Scott Yule/Courtesy Photo

Summit Public Radio & TV, a nonprofit organization that broadcasts across Summit County, is seeking an easement from the county to realign and replace a cable that provides power to its operation. 

The existing cable that the nonprofit uses was last installed in the 1970s. The cable is 10,500 feet long, buried beneath the ground starting at County Road 532 in Breckenridge, near Bald Mountain. The nonprofit has tried to replace the power line for a number of years.

“We’re seeing failures,” said Ashley Smith, Senior Project Manager of SE Group. “Not only is there reliability, but also technologies have changed over time.” 

Smith said the station has updated much of their radio and TV equipment throughout the years which can no longer be supported by the 50-year-old cable they have now. She added that to keep broadcasting free, they need to modernize the power line, and run a fiber-optic cable alongside the replacement. 

However, to complete the project, Summit Public Radio & TV needs the cable to run through a section of land owned by the county. Smith attended the Summit County Open Space Advisory Council to ask for approval to use its parcel. 

In 2010, the nonprofit considered the possibility of replacement and had to go through the U.S. Forest Service to carve out a plan. Through the conversation, Summit Public Radio & TV found they could no longer use the original 1970s route because of landscape blockages. A new route was proposed in 2015, but it required an additional 12,000 feet, forcing the electrical cable to wind all the way along Baldy Road to the radio site. 

Smith came to the meeting on Wednesday, July 20, with a new plan that would cut down the distance by 8,000 feet. This new route, which Smith called the “overland” route, would continue from the 5,500 foot section that was replaced last fall. It would then pass Little Tommy Mine, pass over Baldy Road four times and finish in an almost direct route to the radio site. 

There were a few main concerns and questions that Smith addressed in her presentation. The first was impact, as the line would pass through Alpine forests instead of directly along Baldy Road. 

Smith reassured that their plan was made to reduce impact. Summit Public Radio & TV would require a 55-foot corridor along the route. However, Smith reassured the council that all 55 feet would not all be used. The compaction would be between 5 feet to 15 feet wide, and the 55-foot corridor’s purpose is to give space in case there is an obstruction along the path. 

The line would be installed with three vehicles in a single file, requiring only one day to install. One vehicle would “unzip” the ground, the next would install the cable and the last would “zip” the ground closed again. 

The station has also proposed a plan to monitor the revegetation and restoration of the project after installation. 

There were two main concerns the Open Space Advisory Council posed to the nonprofit.

The first was the potential of others to tap the electric power line. Paul Semmer, a member of the Open Space council, said his concern would be the need for another power line to be added to the first.

“If there’s any anticipation that there’s a need for another line up there, whether it’s electric, fiber optic or whatever, that now will be the time to put a blank conduit in that trench,” he said.

Semmer did, however, recognize that an additional conduit line would cause the construction dimensions to change. 

Scott Yule, the President of Electric Power Solutions who is advising Summit Public Radio & TV on this project, reassured the council that it is very rare for someone to tap into an electric line, and he has only seen it happen once in his career.

Other concerns were of the character of Bald Mountain road and the cost of the project. 

By the end of the meeting, the council unanimously voted yes to approve the replacement and realignment of the power cable, with a few added conditions. 

Katherine King, the director of Summit County Open Space & Trails Department, summarized the conditions at the end of the meeting. They asked for a bonding requirement, a success rate and timing scale for the revegetation work, a policy that “shows how we’re going to incorporate access provisions for maintenance,” and a requirement that there would be no secondary power use on the cable. 

The nonprofit’s next step will be to consult the Board of County Commissioners at their work session on Aug. 2. The project will cost $600,000, which the radio has worked to collect over time. They hope to have the project approved and completed by September 2022. 

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