Thursday, May 16, 2013
While representatives of SWEPCO met informally in late 2012 with Eureka Springs Mayor Morris Pate regarding the company’s proposed routes for a new high voltage power line, the city has not received official notification of the project by registered mail as required by state regulations.
“We did not receive any registered mail notification from SWEPCO, nor were we ever served any papers by a legal process server,” Pate said.
One of six proposed routes would run through a portion of Eureka Springs between the train station and the city sewer plant. As a property owner in the path, Eureka Springs should have been officially notified. Filings by SWEPCO with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) indicate the city was sent official notification.
A number of landowners in the county also haven’t been notified. This is in addition to 40 landowners, including 29 in the Eureka Springs area, who didn’t receive notices from SWEPCO until late April instead of the first of April like most of the more than 800 property owners along the six routes under consideration. SWEPCO said landowners initially missed were not notified in a timely fashion because of a faulty Geographic Information Service (GIS) system
Members of Save The Ozarks (STO), a citizen group opposing the SWEPCO 345 kilovolt (kV) transmission line project as unnecessary, have been contacted by a number of additional landowners who are concerned they haven’t received notification. STO is questioning SWEPCO’s overall competence in this matter, if it really knows whether the project is needed and which routes are the best, when it missed the simple, but important, step of notifying people.
“With faulty GIS, we have landowners still not notified and landowners notified whose land is not traversed,” Ilene Powell of STO said. “The APSC should challenge SWEPCO’s list. Why are people required to prove who is allowed to join a petition to intervene in the proceedings when SWEPCO does not know who is and isn’t directly affected themselves?” People who live in the area could learn about the paths from news reports. But what about property owners from out of state? Roy Masters, who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., owns 94 acres near Keels Creek that would be traversed by the high voltage power lines on the proposed path of one of the southern routes.
“One of the routes is going to go directly across my property,” Masters said. “I didn’t know anything was going on until my uncle [Gene Masters] called. I talked to a neighbor, Richard Quick, who said we should have received notifications by registered mail. We have not received anything. I’ve doubled checked with my wife. I don’t know what their thought process was, if it was to intentionally bypass someone out of state. I’m flabbergasted they think they could pull that off. My dad lives in Florida, and has 40 acres affected. He hasn’t been notified either.”
Masters said he finds it interesting that Carroll County can find his address to send the property tax bill every year, but SWEPCO can’t find any information when it comes to notifying him about something that could drastically impact the value of his property.
“This is a major corporation,” Masters said. “Are you telling me they don’t know the laws? They don’t know how to get a copy of the tax rolls? I don’t know how anybody could say that is a mistake. I could make a phone call from California and get the addresses of everyone there.”
Master said he bought the property because of its natural beauty and family ties. His father was raised in the area. He planned to retire on the property, and maybe develop a few homes.
“I just can’t get my mind around this project,” Masters said. “I’m all for technology and innovation that makes people’s lives better, but Southern Missouri and North Arkansas don’t have a lot of industry. The area does have amazing beauty. Once that is gone, it is gone. It isn’t like you can undo something like that.
“Maybe I’ve been on the West Coast too long. Everything is so regulated here. It seems SWEPCO is skipping a lot of requirements to get this done. I’m just amazed. I don’t know who is running this, but I am appalled at the whole thing. I am absolutely opposed to them coming across my property. I’ll fight that tooth and nail.”
Landowners are supposed to be notified by registered mail, and then are allowed 30 days to respond to intervene. SWEPCO agreed to an extended deadline for intervention for the 40 property owners it missed notifying earlier. Any parties intervening must be represented by an attorney.
Staff for the APSC has recommended public hearings on the proposed transmission line be held in July 15 and 16 in Northwest Arkansas, and that a hearing on the evidence be held August 26-30 before the APSC in Little Rock.
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