Thursday, June 06, 2013
A Texas couple who bought a home on the White River a year and a half ago are on two proposed routes – route 62 and route 86 – for SWEPCO’s proposed high voltage transmission lines that would run from Shipe Road in Benton County to the Kings River in Carroll County. But the couple, Jim and Karen Brittain, have yet to receive a certified letter informing them that their property may be taken for the project that involves clearing a 150-ft. right-of-way for towers that would be 150 ft. or taller.
As of Monday, June 3, the Brittains had received no notification. While most residents in the pathways of the proposed transmission line received notice in early April, about 40 landowners, primarily in the Eureka Springs area, didn’t receive notices from SWEPCO until late April. SWEPCO blamed the shortcoming on use of a faulty Geographic Information System. Additional landowners on one proposed southern route said in mid-May they had not received notification. Those landowners have since been notified.
Notification is important because landowners are given only 30 days after notification to intervene in proceedings before the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which requires being represented by an attorney.
Like the two landowners on the southern routes who were not notified until late May, the Brittains live out of state. But they feel it should have been easy enough for SWEPCO to find their addresses.
“My neighbor called me about a month ago asking if we got a certified letter and I said, ‘No,” Brittain said Monday. “My wife and I still haven’t received a letter. I thought under Arkansas law they had to give you a 30-day notice. It makes you wonder about their competence that they would miss us. I understand the project is going to cost more than $100 million. You would think they would have their act a little bit more together. In this day and age, if you want to find someone, you can find them.
“I have been told there is a possibility of them putting a tower on my property. I just don’t see how they can do it. This property gets flooded.”
The Brittains are currently using the home for vacations and had planned to move here after retirement.
“We fell in love with Eureka Springs and decided to buy here,” Brittain said. “Not even a year and a half later, this thing happens. It is bad news. If this goes through, our house won’t be worth a nickel. We wouldn’t want to live there. Who would? We have six grandchildren, age one and-a-half to eleven. They love going down there and playing down by the river. You couldn’t do that with those lines in the area, especially with them going right across the back yard like that.”
Brittain also has heart problems, an irregular heartbeat condition, atrial fibrillation. He has concerns because electrical lines leakage has been shown to cause problems with people who have pacemakers for irregular heartbeats.
His concerns reach beyond his own health and the security of their financial investment in a home on the White River to the community at large.
“It is going to affect the entire area if they do it,” Brittain said. “People who rent canoes are going to be affected. Who is going to want to canoe down that river if you have power lines everywhere? Who is going to want to fish underneath these huge transmission lines? I know local businesses and tourism will be affected. I just for the life of me can’t understand it. It is going to affect eagles and all kinds of things.
“We bought this place for its view of a cove on the river. The power lines would run right through that cove. The view will be destroyed. The kids can’t go down there and play in the cove if there are power lines running around there.”
Like hundreds of other property owners facing their property being taken by a large electric company, Brittain said he feels powerless.
“All you can do is complain, but does it do any good?” Brittain asks. “From what I understand, you can’t play hardball with them. They get away with doing pretty much what they want. I’d like to know who you could speak to for it to really make a difference.”
John P. Bethel, executive director of the Arkansas Public Service Comm. (APSC), said if the Brittains think the proposed routes cross their land, they should call SWEPCO to ask about notification.
“If they do believe they will be traversed and have not been notified, they may want to make some sort of filing making a petition to intervene,” Bethel said.
Retired Greenpeace International scientist Pat Costner said, “We were already deprived in the first place because the public notice about this project was not published in a paper with wide circulation in Carroll County. The public notice was in the tiny legal advertisements in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.”
Costner said there might be quite a few more property owners who have not been notified as she has just identified three segments of the proposed routes where SWEPCO lists no property owners. That raises concerns that there are additional property owners who have not been notified.
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