Thursday, May 02, 2013
Can the Southwest Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) be trusted? That is a question members of Save the Ozarks (www.savetheozarks.org) are asking after learning that a significant number of landowners along the proposed routes of a 48-mile high voltage power line didn’t receive notification until about April 22 while most landowners received notices early in the month.
Of the 40 landowners who didn’t receive notices from SWEPCO until late April, 29 (72.5 percent) had mailing addresses in Eureka Springs, Save the Ozarks organizer Pat Costner said.
“According to SWEPCO, these landowners were not notified in a timely fashion because of a faulty Geographic Information Service (GIS) system,” said Costner, a retired scientist. “A question for SWEPCO: How is it that their GIS system failed so spectacularly in the Eureka Springs area?”
One of the landowners who received a late notice was Jeff Danos.
“It is fairly obvious that SWEPCO has spent very little time on the ground actually looking at these routes,” Danos said. “They blame the late notice on faulty GIS mapping. This seems to suggest that they came up with these routes remotely, sitting in front of a computer screen. How accurate can they be, and how could they accurately assess the environmental impact?
“It’s unacceptable that a company seeking the power of eminent domain for a project be allowed to propose such vague routes. Several homeowners on my street (Pivot Rock Road) were “inadvertently left off the list” until the last minute. These are visible homes in a residential neighborhood on a paved road just outside of city limits, not some backwoods hard-to-find hunting cabin on a dirt road. If they had trouble identifying our homes on Pivot Rock Road that are so close to city limits, I can only imagine how many less accessible properties remain unidentified.”
This isn’t the first time SWEPCO has had problems identifying homes impacted in a project. In proceedings to build a 345 kV transmission line between Tontitown and Chambers Springs, SWEPCO blamed their miscount of affected properties on a typo.
In that case, SWEPCO stated the route they did not want to use had more affected homes on it, which was their justification for not using it. “But when the judge decided that they needed to use their second choice route after all, they suddenly revised the number of homes affected to be less,” Danos said.
SWEPCO spokesman Peter Main said in the letter to landowners who were originally missed that SWEPCO apologized. “We said we would not oppose as untimely any intervention or limited appearance application that the forty landowners might file within thirty days of April 24, 2013, so that would be clear as the Arkansas Public Service Commission reviews any intervention or limited appearance applications,” he said.
Richard Quick, who received his notice late for property near Keels Creek, said although they were given 30 days from the date of the letter to comment, the oversight combined with major discrepancies in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement leaves him with little confidence in SWEPCO.
“I have read almost all the way through their impact statement and there are so many glaring discrepancies,” Quick said. “It is basically saying what they need to say in order to get what they want. They are passing over the huge impact on society and people whose land they are ready to take. They say their route avoids home sites, but how could they possibly know what people have planned for home sites?”
One route proposed would pass through property the Quicks own near Keels Creek and destroy the scenic site where the couple had planned to build.
“We have owned our property for four years and have used that time to manicure and beautify the grounds, clean up damage from the ice storm and study the drainage situation so we could determine where to build our house,” Quick said. “Recently we decided on the perfect location as it has the best view of any spot on the property, only to learn that it is positioned directly under the path of one of SWEPCO’s alternate routes. This line would destroy our favorite building site and completely devalue our land, as well as cause extreme emotional and mental trauma as we love our land and could not bear to see it defaced in this way. This SWEPCO project is our worst nightmare.”
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