EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The eastern side of the county, along with Pueblo County and much of the state's eastern plains, are within the proposed area of a $2 billion infrastructure upgrade by Xcel Energy.
El Paso County commissioners received an update on the plan during an informal work session at the county fairgrounds Tuesday.
The project, called the Colorado Power Pathway, is described by Xcel as "(improving) the state’s electric grid and enable future renewable energy development around the state. Colorado’s Power Pathway will increase electric reliability, boost the regional economy and create jobs during construction."
There are six segments in the project: Segment 4, which includes parts of Pueblo and Crowley counties, would start construction in 2025 and become operational in 2027; Segment 5 would include El Paso and Pueblo counties and have the same timeline.
Before construction can start, Xcel must receive permits from the counties involved, and approval from affected property owners to allow Xcel access.
An El Paso County spokesman said Wednesday that commissioners aren't ready to officially discuss the project until their planners meet with Xcel to finalize plans and vote on the required permit.
Several landowners and community groups told KRDO NewsChannel 13 Wednesday that they're more opposed to the route of the project than the actual plan, citing a variety of reasons.
"Having high-voltage power lines on or near your property can decrease your property value anywhere from 35% to 60%," said Kerry Jiblitz, of the Elbert County Environmental Alliance. "So that's a huge concern for people. People move out here for the rural lifestyle and to get away from all of these big-city things."
Don Gray, an Elbert County rancher, said that he and many landowners are not giving Xcel permission to conduct pre-construction surveys where new infrastructure would be installed, and that the utility is being overly aggressive in trying to do those surveys.
"It's going right through the heart of this county," he said. "This is a rural county. They have other options. In the whole scheme of things, Xcel can push this. If they don't want to use the I-25 corridor, they can push it to the I-70 corridor which already has easements in place."
However, Xcel previously explained that its chosen option is best because it doesn't get in the way of development or interfere with military installations or other vital systems.
Other concerns expressed by landowners, include negative impacts to health from exposure to power line emissions, disruption to wildlife and ruining the natural landscape.
There also are fears that Xcel won't compensate affected landowners fairly, and even use eminent domain to forcibly acquire private property.
Deb Fletcher raises chickens on her 320 acres in El Paso County.
"I'd be more in favor of this project if we were getting something out of it, but we're not," she explained. "All of the power being generated is going to metro Denver. We're left to bear the burden of broken power poles, damage to our dirt roads, things like that."
If approved, Fletcher said that she wants Xcel customers to pay franchise fees that would finance local infrastructure upgrades.
"To pave our roads, to pay our volunteer fire department and get them all the equipment they need," she said. "And whatever's left, to give to our two schools."
Xcel said that it would comment further at a later date.