Thursday, April 18, 2013
What is the Southwest Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) not telling people about the real purpose of a proposed new 345 kilovolt (kV) transmission line from the existing Shipe Road Station in Centerton, then across Carroll County to a proposed new station at the Kings River?
That was a prominent question at a public meeting held by opponents of the transmission line on April 11. The meeting attracted more than 100 people concerned about how the new transmission line would impact property values, the environment, water quality, scenic views and tourism.
“It is a power line to nowhere,” a meeting organizer, Roger Shepperd, said.
Shepperd said there are no electric generating stations on the Benton County end of the power line, and no large power users in Berryville that would need a line that large. SWEPCO has stated that the power line is needed to meet future growth demands in Carroll County and eastern Benton County, and the new power line has been recommended by the Southern Power Pool (SPP), a regional power transmission organization. But Shepperd said SPP documents don’t show any plans for a 345 kV line that would plug into either the Shipe Road or Kings River.
“In all the SPP projected activities for next twenty years, there is no mention of anything like that,” Shepperd said. “We don’t know why they want it.”
Doug Stowe, whose home in Eureka Springs is 175 ft. from line 91 – one of six routes under consideration by SWEPCO – said reasons given by SWEPCO for the new line don’t make sense.
“We know the real cause of this probably has to be with Flint Creek Coal Plant being able to send power up through Carroll County and into the Bentonville area,” Stowe said. “ I suspect this has very little to do with serving people in our area, that this is a transmission line to connect a new, unnecessary coal fired generation plant with the grid. I don’t see the industry growing up around Berryville that requires a supplemental 345 kV service.”
SWEPCO spokesman Peter Main said in an e-mail to the Independent that on the western end, the proposed 345-kV line connects to the Flint Creek-Shipe Road 345-kV line and the Shipe Road Station currently under construction near Centerton.
“On the eastern end of the proposed line, the Kings River Station will connect to two existing 161-kV lines,” Main said. “The Kings River Station will include an autotransformer that steps the voltage down from 345 kV to 161 kV, allowing the 345-kV facilities to reinforce the existing 161-kV lines in region.”
In response to the comment about the Turk Plant, Main said the Turk Plant is interconnected to the SWEPCO system through three high-voltage lines – one 345-kV line and two 138-kV lines near Texarkana.
Another issue of concern raised in the meeting was that the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) says the concerns of individual landowners will not be addressed.
“That means for all of us as individuals, the impact of this line to our property values and quality of life has no meaning to them,” Stowe said. “I’m also concerned whether or not SWEPCO has used the latest technology to determine the impact on various residences. There is no discussion of how they generated their information in the environmental impact statement (EIS), so we are left not knowing if they used the latest technology to develop the plan. If they didn’t use the latest technology, the whole EIS is flawed.”
He suspects they didn’t use the latest technology because the EIS states that routes avoid any impacts to historic and known scenic resources. However, a wide swath of route 91 would be clearly visible from historic Spring Street in Eureka.
“Just the thing of not noticing line 91 is clearly visible from Spring Street would be an indication of not just route 91 being a flawed route, but that the whole EIS is a flawed study,” Stowe said. "If they missed a thing as simple as that, what else of even greater significance have they glossed over in their rush to push this through the APSC?"
One major issue for protesters is whether to oppose the entire line or the routes affecting individual property owners. Several speakers at the recent meeting said all the owners should join together to challenge the need for the line.
“We are all in this together,” Shepperd said. “We want to stop the project in its entirety. We are not here to choose one route over another. That divides us and pits one against another. As opposed to saying we want this route or that route, let’s talk about, ‘How do we achieve stopping SWEPCO?’ The line is unnecessary. It is not needed. It is not warranted. We need to organize a ground swell of resistance at the local level in all the communities. We need to reach out and try to unite all of the affected people so we can stop this.”
Shepperd said there is a lot to be done, with the first objective being to get an extension on the notice of only 30 days that gives opponents only until May 2 to intervene in the proceeding before the Public Service Commission (PSC). He said they would seek an extension to 90 days, and proceed with hiring an attorney with experience doing work before the PSC.
“We are here to work together to stop more needless destruction of the Ozarks,” said organizer Pat Costner, a retired Greenpeace scientist whose 135-acre homestead would be cut in half by the preferred route. “We have a responsibility to safeguard our environment. We are going to float or sink together. We are here because we love the Ozarks. We are not here to see who gets the short straw. We are here to stop the Shipe Road to Kings River power line. We seek an APSC decision to deny approval for the entire project, transmission line and the Kings River Station, based on SWEPCO’s failure to establish the need for the project. SWEPCO says that someone else told them they need to do it. That is simply not sufficient.”
Another meeting organizer, Mark Armstrong, said the data used to justify the line was based on erroneous information from 2007. There was a worldwide recession in 2008, so their projections are based on false information, Armstrong said.
Opponents have been very busy the first couple of weeks after receiving notices about a power line being proposed for their land. They have created a Facebook page and a webpage, Save the Ozarks (www.savetheozarks.com). They have also sought legal advice, worked to recruit volunteers, and talked about fundraising to pay the bills.
Armstrong said it is important to spread the word about the project.
“I’ve talked to people in Rogers and Bentonville, and I am floored by the people who don’t know about this,” Armstrong said. “We have an energy superhighway to nowhere that can be used for other purposes. Our electricity rates will go up to pay for SWEPCO’s perpetual violation of the scenic Ozarks. SWEPCO will be spraying herbicides and where does that go? It goes into the environment such as water used for fishing and drinking.
"What about the impacts on tourism, and what about people buying land and building homes here? What happens to locals? It is mortifying to see this happening in one of the most beautiful areas of this country. What is really shocking is that no one has said why we really need this power line. It doesn’t make sense. There is something that SWEPCO is not telling us.”
Several speakers at the meeting said that alternative energy and energy conservation should be used instead of just building bigger transmission lines and using more energy.
“The power grid should be decentralized,” said Tom Swenson. “There are ample opportunities for solar production in every neighborhood in this town. One example is the high school roofs are capable of generating enough electricity to probably power half of this town.”
Organizers highly recommend people put in comments opposing the project to the PSC. A link can be found at www.savetheozarks.org or the mailing address is P.O. Box 400, Little Rock AR 72203-0400. There is also a link at that website to see how close the proposed power lines come to your property.
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