A report from the county attorney's office has effectively acknowledged a truce in the dispute between Tri-State Generation and Transmission and the county acting on behalf of pilots and management at Blake Field. The dispute has been over power lines near the runway.
In the spring of 2011, the Board of County Commissioners determined that Tri-State would be required to provide the county with written certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the hazard to air navigation posed by the newly installed power lines and their support structures had been completely mitigated.
According to the county attorney's office report, all nine of the power line support structures that had been determined as hazards in 2011 now "have received a determination of no hazard to air navigation" from the FAA.
The report was delivered to the county commissioners on Aug. 5.
The FAA's determination of "no hazard" was a requirement of the BoCC after the nine of the support structures, part of the Delta County Transmission Improvement Project (DCTIP), had been installed in 2010 without required prior approval by the FAA. The nine structures were then found by the FAA to be safety hazards.
The DCI's reporting on the matter uncovered varying explanations from Tri-State and its contractor as to how the lines and supports nearest the airport and within the airport's designated airspace came to be installed in violation of FAA regulations and without required notice to the agency.
The local pilot community at Blake Field also raised questions at a BoCC public hearing and protested strongly against the power lines being located near and above the airport runway. The county, which had given the DCTIP project its specific development approval, feared huge liability if the lines were ever involved in an airplane accident.
Tri-State undertook several measures including marking support structures and repositioning lines, work which was aimed at bringing them within compliance with FAA regulations.
Under its authority in the specific development process, the county had prohibited Tri-State and its project partners City of Delta and DMEA from energizing the lines until the county's stipulation for FAA approval were met. The attorney- office's report gives tacit acknowledgment that the BoCC's stipulation for FAA approval had been met. But the power lines have been carrying electricity anyway for well over a year even without the county removing its prohibition against energizing them ever since Tri-State determined that it had met the BoCC's requirement.
The county attorney's report notes that Tri-State has filed necessary report documentation with the FAA.
While the matter between the county commissioners and Tri-State may be settled, the Blake Field pilots won't forget how high-voltage power lines came to be erected in their airspace without notice to them. The management at Blake Field and the pilots still are not completely satisfied with the outcome – two of the support structures tower high above the runway atop a hill, there to stay.
Local pilots are aware of the lines and can take measures to avoid them. But safety concerns linger about pilots unfamiliar with the area, about high-altitude airport operations in hot summer weather, and about the random mishap.
Earlier this year, a private pilot experiencing problems crash landed his small plane on Highway 50 within sight of Blake Field and another airstrip. The pilot closely missed power lines that run parallel to the highway there.blog comments powered by Disqus