Washburn, Seligman dealing with SWEPCO project

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Washburn cited as possible overload area, Seligman involved in routing

Cities in southern Barry County are getting some attention regarding the Southwestern Electric Power Company's plan to build a 345-kV transmission line along the Missouri border.

The city of Washburn has been cited as an area where a transmission overload could occur if any outage occurs.

Peter Main, spokesman for SWEPCO, said because the transmission lines are interconnected, Washburn's transmission facility could be at risk.

"If we lose one or more of our lines, the power flow will increase over the remaining lines," he said. "There are certain locations within the system that can be overloaded, and the transmission facility at Washburn is one of those locations."

Lanny Nickell, of the Southwest Power Pool, the regional organization that has charged SWEPCO with building the new transmission line, has testified to the Arkansas Public Services Commission that an overload to the 161-kV transmission line in Washburn could occur.

"Overloads mean the load on the line or transformer is higher than its rated capacity," Main said. "Impact on the equipment or electric system depends on operating conditions at the time. SPP's analysis shows that the overload of the Washburn transformer is one of multiple overloads in Arkansas and Missouri that would be resolved by the Shipe Road-Kings River project."

Seligman has also been more involved in the SWEPCO project as of late, as it recently received letters from Burns & McDonnell, based in Kansas City, Mo., requesting input for the routing study for Route 109. The route would begin in Arkansas and cross the Missouri border, traversing 8.5 miles in Barry County and 17 miles in McDonald County before crossing the border back into Arkansas.

Jerry Montgomery, mayor of Seligman, said he does not see a benefit to the project in Missouri, and is in opposition to it being built.

"It's like building a freeway with no on-ramps or off-ramps," he said. "They say it will boost tax revenues, but I see them being cut because a line like that going across someone's property will devalue that property. Everyone I have talked to is dead set against it."

The Route 109 map points to Seligman in its zone study, and Montgomery said Burns & McDonnell plans to have an open meeting in the city to get input on the final route. A date and time for the meeting has yet to be determined.

"We will most assuredly try to get it to go around Seligman, but it's only one mile from here to the state line and Gateway, Ark.," he said. "Gateway hired an attorney to fight it, so I assume it would go up north toward Washburn, but I'm not sure and that's something we'll have to discuss."

SWEPCO originally claimed the transmission line would bring $820,000 to Barry County in property tax revenues, but has since dropped that figure down to $250,000 to $275,000.

Originally estimating the tax rate at 7 percent, Main said the company lowered the Barry County rate used for estimating to 5 percent.

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