SWEPCO Power Line

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Many of you may have heard about a recently proposed Arkansas power line that could pass through southern Barry and McDonald counties.

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) is considering Route 109, running for about 25 miles along the Missouri-Arkansas border, as one option to address power supply issues in north Arkansas.

Originally, SWEPCO proposed six routes: five in Arkansas and Route 109 through northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. That list has since been cut down to three routes, with Route 109 still among the possibilities.

The route would require a 150-foot wide right of way with six towers per mile, which would each be about 150 feet tall. To erect the towers, 50-foot-deep foundation holes would have to be dug.

Numerous property owners along the proposed route and citizens in the area have contacted me to voice their concern. After finding out about it, I immediately contacted the Missouri Public Service Commission, the regulatory body responsible for oversight of power delivery in our state, to see if SWEPCO had filed any paperwork or proposed any plans in Missouri. They informed me that no request for a transmission line through southern Missouri had been filed by SWEPCO. However, it was aware of the proposed route and informed me that even if Route 109 was approved in Arkansas, it would also have to be approved here.

I then learned of a meeting of the Arkansas Public Service Commission on Aug. 26 in Little Rock, Ark., where the three proposed routes would be discussed. As I had already scheduled a meeting with constituents, I sent my Chief of Staff to sit in on the meeting and report back.

Route 109 was the least discussed route at this meeting. Affected property owners, cities and towns, and those concerned about the effect on the local economy all testified before the commission, in addition to an army of attorneys.

Most of the attention was paid to proposed Route 33, south of the Missouri route through north-central Arkansas. Engineers and attorneys for the Arkansas Public Service Commission testified that Route 33 through northern Arkansas met all of their necessary criteria and that the route was "useful and reasonable."

Both the Missouri route and the other proposed route, Route 108, were stated as "not SWEPCO's preferred route." The only other mention of the Missouri route was that there had been not been "adequate notification" of affected property owners and there was little to no public awareness in Barry and McDonald counties.

This is just one of many problems with Route 109. The people most affected by the construction of the transmission line have not been informed or, if they were informed, it was not done in a timely manner so they could make their concerns known or be able to defend themselves and their property.

No public hearings have been held in Barry or McDonald counties and neither SWEPCO nor the Arkansas Public Service Commission posted public notifications in Missouri newspapers.

The route would also significantly affect the local landscape. Many living here chose to build their homes and make the biggest investment of their lives because of the natural beauty of the area. The local tourism of Barry and McDonald counties is heavily dependent on our streams, forests, and rolling hills. Several 150-foot towers scattered around them would hurt our local economy and negatively impact the property values of everyone nearby.

Another reason this project is wrong for Missouri is that the people most affected by the line would not be serviced by the power it is transmitting. Missouri would just be a "pass through" for power going to Arkansas residents. To take someone's property is bad enough, but to tell them they wouldn't have more reliable power or even receive the power their property is transmitting is worse.

Since the Missouri route would be longer and more expensive, would require the approval of the regulatory agencies in both Missouri and Arkansas, and was the least discussed route at the Little Rock meeting, I think we can stop worrying for now. However, I will continue to monitor the issue closely and will share any new developments with you. If Route 109 is back on the table or is pursued by SWEPCO, I will work with local officials and members of the Legislature to determine the best way to oppose it.

In the meantime, if you are affected by the proposed Route 109 or have concerns as to the impact to our area, you can submit a public comment to the Arkansas Public Service Commission at www.arkansas.gov/psc/, click on the "Public Comments" tab on the right side of the page and select docket 13-041-U.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480; david.sater@senate.mo.gov; or by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

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  • My wife and I operate Christview Ministries Center just outside Eureka Springs, AR. We wish to thank David Sater and the Cassville Democrat for your opposition to the SWEPCO high voltage transmission line. There are many reasons to oppose this line, many of which you have rightly identified. We are truly grateful.

    However, there is a major part of the story that you have missed.

    The real power behind this proposal is not SWEPCO but the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) which assigned to SWEPCO this first piecemeal portion of the masterplan. Entergy and other companies will be assigned further pieces.

    If SPP and SWEPCO get Proposed Route 33 approved, they will come back with a proposal for either Route 108 or Route 109 making a complete loop between the Shipe Road and the Kings River Substations. The first purpose of this loop would be to provide "redundancy and stabilization" for two even bigger lines planned to cross central Missouri and central Arkansas.

    The lines currently proposed for northern Arkansas and southern Missouri are not primarily for consumption in Arkansas or Missouri. Even one of the two lines headed to the Kings River Substation carries eight times (and can be doubled to carry 16 times) the total power currently being utilized in Carroll County, AR, for which already existing lines are more than adequate. The purpose of this whole project is to deliver energy being generated on the Great Plains to the East.

    When the two lines have reached the Kings River Substation, new lines will spring out from there, one going through the Branson area (if the Army Corps of Engineers lets that happen)to Springfield, Missouri, one going near Mountain Home and Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, to Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and the third going to Newport, AR, on the way to the Memphis area. From these first destinations, the lines will go on toward the East.

    The beautiful Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks will be horribly scarred. These lines are far bigger and more dangerous to our health and the environment than anything with which we have previous local experience. They will bring with them high doses of eletromagnetic radiation and increased dangers of forest fires from arcing on the lines. The building of the lines will endanger our fragile karst terrain. The removal of trees for the 150 foot right-of-way and the placing of the large poles will damage our scenic beauty. The maintenance of the right-of-way with herbicide cocktails will dangerously pollute our aquifers and streams. The new lines and substations will be perfect targets for terrorists.

    The real irony of this project is that the giant, superhighway grid that the power industry is planning is insecure and obsolete before it is even built. The new lines will be unneeded as soon as the current trend toward locally distributed generation of electricity becomes the major model across the country.

    Solar panels have already begun their takeoff toward becoming the major pattern for energy generation in this country. Homes, businesses, churches, schools, government buildings, and more will be generating their own power cleanly and economically, and to the degree that the power industry is cooperative, will be selling their excess back into the system for local distribution to their neighbors. Cross-country distribution will be a dinosaur. When these high voltage lines no longer are needed and their builders cannot pay off their loans, guess who will be picking up the bill for their blind folly: we, the customers and tax-paying citizens!

    Help us stop it now! If not stopped now, it will be harder to stop with each step along the way.

    John Turner

    -- Posted by John of the Ozarks on Fri, Oct 4, 2013, at 9:55 AM
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