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115-kv transmission line in Ellis Co. is piece of Elk Creek Pipeline

Midwest Energy plans new 115-kv line in Hays; town hall Thursday

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
A crew member from Kansas City, Mo.,-based Par Electrical Contractors drives a truck hauling reels of conductor wire at Antonino and 270th roads last week as part of building a 16-mile 115-kilovolt transmission line installation southeast of Hays.
Crew members from Kansas City, Mo.,-based Par Electrical Contractors install conductor wire along Antonino Road on Saturday as part of building a 16-mile 115-kilovolt transmission line installation southeast of Hays.
Map of the Elk Creek Pipeline project
A map of proposed routes for Midwest Energy's planned 115-kilovolt electric power transmission line in the western area of Hays.

A 115-kilovolt electric power transmission line going up southeast of Hays is a piece of the new 900-mile Elk Creek Pipeline delivering natural gas liquids from eastern Montana to facilities in Bushton.

Construction of the transmission line should be wrapped up mid-March, according to Brent Luedke, Lyons, foreman for Par Electrical Contractors, Kansas City, Mo., whose crew is building the line.

When completed, the 16-mile transmission line will deliver electricity from Midwest Energy Inc.’s South Hays Substation at 260th and Mt. Pleasant roads to a new substation north of Pfeifer owned by Tulsa Okla.-based OneOK Inc., and part of its major U.S. gas systems network.  The substation, north of Pfeifer off Norfolk Road, is currently powered by gas.

OneOK’s Elk Creek Pipeline, which went online in December 2019, delivers natural gas liquids from the Williston Basin to OneOk’s Bushton Processing Inc. gas plant.

“Along those major interstate pipelines you have to have pump stations to keep pressure on the pipeline,” said Mike Morley, Midwest’s director of corporate communications and government affairs. “There’s two of those stations that fall in our service territory. One is out in Thomas County, and then there’s the new one in Pfeiffer.”

Because those substations take a lot of electricity, Midwest Energy is building the transmission line at OneOK’s request, and at OneOK’s expense, he said.

“That’s a pretty good-sized transmission line,” said Morley. “It’s unique that a facility has it’s own substation, like the Pfeifer substation. “Substations are built to serve a decent-size load, and this of course is a decent-size load.”

A substation takes high voltage electricity, like 115 kilovolts, and steps it up or down, Morley said.

“You have to step it down to 120 volts,” he said. “So you use substations and transformers to step that electricity down. So it takes higher voltage and then lowers that voltage to where it could safely be used in homes or businesses.”

Normally there are anywhere from 10 to 20 poles per mile, depending on the project. It’s not uncommon to see poles of different sizes on a transmission line, Morley said, with stronger polls in place where there are turns or junctions that deviate from a straight line. For the most part, the OneOk line follows the county roads.

Par’s crew building the line includes employees from Salina, Ellis, Lyons and Colby, Luedke said. They started the work in early January, stopping for just a couple days during last week’s extreme below-zero temperatures.

Plans for 115-kv line in Hays

Midwest Energy is planning to build a new 115-kilovolt transmission line to replace an existing one that serves Hays.

The existing line runs from Midwest Energy’s Chetola Creek substation in southeast Hays to its North Hays Substation on the north edge of town.

It passes through commercial areas, running directly over homes behind Centennial Lanes bowling alley, behind Big Creek Crossing Mall and then crossing Interstate-70 over to Home Depot.

“That line was built in the ‘50s and then homes came in the ‘60s and ‘70s and went along underneath them,” Morley said.

“Frankly, the conductor that’s on that line is just kind of undersized,” he said. “We’re trying to upgrade, kind of modernize that line and get it out from running directly through the heart of the city, and put it on a route that’s easier to maintain and better serves the needs of Hays, and the growth that we’re going to look at in the future.”

The cost will depend on many variables, including the project route and the design, he said.

Looking at a 12-square mile area for the project, Midwest Energy narrowed 3,000 possible routes to three. 

Midwest Energy is holding a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss the project with the public. Anyone can join by registering on the Midwest Energy web site.

“Anybody in Hays is welcome to join in and listen in on that,” Morley said. “We did mail out notices to all landowners and all residents that live along the three proposed routes, because of course they would be the most impacted. And we’d like to run those routes by them and hear their concerns and get their feedback.”

A map of the proposed routes is on Midwest Energy’s web site.

As explained on the web site, the routes were chosen after analyzing data on everything from city plat maps and zoning information to land topography, flood plain data, easements, land ownership and airport encroachments. 

Midwest Energy also reviewed routes with staff and officials from the city of Hays and Ellis County, as well as from state agencies, like the department’s of agriculture, tourism, transportation, health and environment, wildlife and parks, historical society and the Kansas Biological Survey. 

Based on the feedback, Morley said “Our engineers will try and figure out the route that works the best for everybody.”