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.