Design & Cost Estimating Underway for SMPA Red Mountain Reliability Project



San Miguel Power Association Board of Directors Meeting

September 22, 2020

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Red Mountain Pass area. Map data: © Google 2020, Labels added by Ore Cart.

Power outage communication methods described.

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Capital credit/member dividend payments may be possible year-end 2020.

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Wholesale power supply proposals reviewed in executive session.

Red Mountain Electrical Reliability and Broadband Improvement Project

SMPA Engineering described factors which will affect the project cost:

Labor cost is based on economic demands and project location.

Vegetation removal is based on timber harvest including helicopter extraction and slash treatments.

Material lead times and costs could increase due to economic factors.  Gulf and East Coasts hurricanes have affected the price of powerline construction materials due to greater demand.

  • The United States Forest Service (USFS) recently issued new guidelines for timber sales.

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Project design is underway, and bidding for vegetation management (VM) is planned for this winter, explained SMPA CEO Brad Zaporski via October 5, 2020 email correspondence:

The design work we are currently doing is to provide an estimated cost of the project. With large infrastructure projects that can take a decade to permit, design and build, the project costs can be largely influenced by the timing of the construction amongst other things.

In addition, due to the project size, we have to break it up into stages. Right now we are concentrating on Vegetation Management and fully clearing the right of way. This must get done regardless of re-building the line. 

The need for traffic closures and chopper work along with the inaccessibility of the line are proving to make the VM very costly. Therefore we are going to use this winter to bid the VM and at that point we will have a reliable cost estimate for that one piece of the project, for example.

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More info

SMPA describes the location and purpose of Red Mountain powerline rebuild project at Current News, 9/2/2020 - section Infrastructure and Reliability Projects:

. . project aims to re-build a power delivery line that crosses the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre National Forest, the San Juan National Forest as well other private lands in the mountainous region. This line serves as a backup feed for the communities of Ouray County. . . .

Outage communication

SMPA Member Services reported methods for notifying member/consumers about planned and unplanned electric service interruptions:

mobile phone text message

SmartHub mobile app

  • website has a live link to the Facebook page. Accessing Facebook from does not require a Facebook account.

Mobile phone text messaging uses local law enforcement or emergency management channels such as Code Red and Wireless Emergency Notifications System (WENS), where available.

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Screenshot from San Miguel Power Association SmartHub mobile app indicating power outage status.

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An excerpt from the September 28, 2020 SMPA Facebook page explains planned power outages:


"Sometimes it is necessary for us to schedule power outages in order to maintain and improve the power grid. We make every effort to keep these outages short and to schedule them when it is the least inconvenient for you. . . ."

Planned outage purposes are also described at article Planned Outages: For Safety; Reliability and Power Outages and System Reliability.

Other options to receive power outage notifications:

- Wireless Emergency Notifications (WENS) sign-up. Three counties in SMPA service area are participating.

- Code Red sign-up.

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Links to county emergency notification sign-ups are listed in the Appendix below.


SMPA Finance reported that a capital credits allocation retirement appears to be possible at year-end 2020, based on year-to-date SMPA financial performance and a forecast of year-end.

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SMPA explains capital credits and member dividends at

As a cooperative, San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) is owned by its members, and member dividends, also known as "capital credits", reflect each member’s ownership in the cooperative.

In a typical year, SMPA tries to collect slightly more than enough revenue to cover its expenses. The excess revenue, called “margins” is allocated to each consumer in proportion to their contributions for that year. For a period of time, this capital can be used by the cooperative to finance operations and construction. This helps keep rates at an affordable level by reducing the amount of funds that must be borrowed to maintain and enhance SMPA’s existing electric system. When the Board determines the time is right, allocations for a given year or combination of years are cashed out as “Member Dividends” and returned to the members. . . .

. . . The most recent member dividend retirement took place on December 30th, 2019. 

Wholesale power supplier options

The SMPA Board of Directors reviewed alternative wholesale electric power supply offers in executive session. Returning to open session, SMPA CEO Brad Zaporski reported that Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and its member systems CEOs have formed a technical advisory committee consisting of some member system CEOs.

SMPA CEO Zaporski was appointed to this Technical Advisory group. He told SMPA directors that the first assignment is Tri-State’s wholesale electric supply contract, and his position will be, “They will have to lower their wholesale power cost.”

More info

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association member systems are electric cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming which purchase wholesale electric power from Tri-State.

SMPA has purchased wholesale electric power from Tri-State for nearly 30 years, following the banckruptcy of Colorado-Ute Electric Association.

SMPA describes its research into alternate wholesale power options at Current News, 9/2/2020 - section  SMPA Power Supply:

Ore Cart's previous report on SMPA's 2020 review of alternate wholesale power supply options, August 30, 2020: SMPA to Consider Alternate Wholesale Power Supplier Proposals September 15


United States Forest Service Timber Sales

Forest Products Cut and Sold from the National Forests and Grasslands United States Forest Service - U.S. Department of Agriculture.

County emergency notification sign-up via Code Red or Nixle.

San Juan County Emergency Management

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Federal Emergency Management Administration emergency notification system

FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts

FEMA Integrated Public Alert & Warning System