By Ellen Fike
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
RAWLINS – The company creating a massive transmission line project that will run through Carbon County has given notice that it needs more employees to finish one phase.
In an April 17 letter from Gateway Transmission project Rod Fisher to Brian Lovett from the Department of Environmental Quality to ask for approval of a new estimated workforce, Fisher notes that the expected workforce is now projected to exceed the originally estimated amount given in Rocky Mountain Power’s initial application.
Originally, Fisher and Rocky Mountain Power expected to have a peak of 511 employees working on the transmission project, averaging around 325 people during the construction process. An updated application submitted in August 2019 increased the peak of employees to 713, because projections anticipated “significant” work to be done over the winter and early spring.
Unfortunately, Wyoming weather was unpredictable and didn’t “allow for approval of variances to work in big game winter habitat,” which has pushed the work back through October. Fisher noted in the letter that after July 15, the date that sage grouse seasonal restrictions are lifted, work will be completed at a much faster pace.
“We do not believe that the additional workforce has created any adverse environmental, social or economic impacts in the project area,” Fisher wrote in the letter.
Although there has been a bit of a delay in the construction, Fisher expected the overall project to still finish on time.
Gateway West is just one portion of the Energy Gateway Transmission Expansion, which was launched in May 2007 by PacifiCorp. The project is intended to add around 2,000 miles of new transmission lines across the western region.
In 2017, PacifiCorp announced plans to construct a sub-segment of the Gateway West project in Wyoming. The Gateway West sub-section is 190 miles, stretching from the Aeorlus Substation northwest of Medicine Bow to the Anticline Substation near the Fort Bridger Power Plant.
In the letter to DEQ, Fisher mentioned the Carbon County Commissioners’ concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of contract workers coming into the area.
“Within 24 hours of expressing concerns, Rocky Mountain Power arranged a meeting of our contractors for transmission, substation, new wind and wind re-powering projects in Medicine Bow on April 8,” Fisher wrote.
He went on to explain that the contractors and a RMP representative met with officials, such as the Carbon County public health nurse manager and the Carbon County COVID-19 incident management team leader to discuss the projects’ safety protocols and plans regarding the pandemic.
County officials expressed appreciation to RMP officials for their response and noted that the plans “exceeded expectations,” Fisher wrote in the letter.
He explained that PacifiCorp plans to keep all of its employees and contractors safe from any harm while continuing to provide this essential service.
Hanna town marshal Jeff Neimark commented on the potential influx of employees to The Rawlins Times in early April, saying it would only be reasonable to have concerns about more people coming into the county. But Neimark ultimately said he believed that Rocky Mountain Power and PacfiCorp had things under control.
“People have to work in certain jobs,” Neimark said in the email. “If the energy companies can work in a safe manner, such as workers being able to practice social distancing, not gathering in large groups, wear PPE when necessary… I think it will be fine. I believe companies take this seriously.”
With this increased employment request, PacifiCorp has to run a legal notice, letting the public know about the request for the new estimated workforce.