Thursday, July 11, 2013
Some of the most popular tourist attractions in the Eureka Springs area are at risk for damage or destruction if the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) allows SWEPCO to proceed with plans for a 48-mile-long high voltage transmission line with towers 150-feet-tall and taller that would need massive concrete bases.
“Drilling boreholes 6-10 feet wide and 30-40 feet deep can be expected to dislodge and break the stalactites and stalagmites in Onyx Cave and the many other caves in the area,” said Pat Costner, an environmental consultant who is a past senior scientist with Greenpeace. “The drilling and other construction-related activities could easily make Pivot Rock, a massive rock formation that has been described as a huge ‘top balanced on its pointed end,’ tumble and fall.”
According to an Arkansas Geological Survey report, there are more than 1,000 springs within a seven-mile radius of Eureka Springs. Costner can count more than 20 springs on her property north of Eureka Springs, which is on several of the proposed SWEPCO power line routes, including the preferred route.
“Construction of these lines will wreak havoc with the springs on my property and throughout the area,” Costner said in testimony for the citizen group Save The Ozarks that was filed recently. “The process of constructing a power line of this size through this fragile karst terrain will cause untold, irreparable damage to the springs, caves and other karst features.”
Costner said the power line would severely diminish her ability to enjoy walking in her forest, playing in the creeks with her grandchildren, and kayaking area waters.
“This transmission line would…lower my quality of life substantially and unbearably,” Costner said. “It will cause me great pain every time I walk along my driveway and drive into my place and see that line cutting across it like an ugly wound.”
Costner believes that herbicides SWEPCO plans to use to maintain the power line threaten the quality of her drinking water from a private well, and the water quality of the springs and creeks in the area that various species that inhabit those springs and creeks depend upon.
“The preferred route for the power line runs across the south face of the hill behind my house,” Costner said. “This means some portion of the herbicide residues and adjuvants would be carried downhill toward my home and private water well.
“I have devoted my life professionally to evaluating the manufacture and use of toxic and hazardous chemicals. I am well versed in their effects. I went to considerable trouble to reach an agreement with the local rural electric cooperative to ensure that no herbicides would be used on any rights-of-way on my property. I am concerned about the chemicals leaching into my springs, creeks and well water as well as the other creeks, springs and lakes in the area and their effects on the fish and other creatures, including people, that live and play in and drink from them.”
Costner has seen a black bear come out of one cave on her place that appears to be directly under the path of the line. She has also watched bats flying over her house and around her yard, so it seems certain that they live in one of the caves on her place.
“I am concerned about impacts of the construction, placement and maintenance of the line on the bears, bats, frogs, turtles, lizards, snakes, crawdads, fish, wild bees... all of the creatures that have lived and thrived on my place throughout the years I have lived here,” Costner said. “I am concerned about the birds. The line’s electromagnetic fields may well interfere with the navigational abilities of birds, bats and bees.”
Costner said the power line will go right through the areas on the White River where the eagles nest and roost in the trees, and she is concerned about the impacts to areas where she and many other people like to kayak.
“Every one of the proposed lines crosses the Kings River,” she said. “One of the proposed lines tracks the river almost two miles. Some years ago, the State of Arkansas designated the Kings River as an extraordinary resource water body and as a Scenic River. In short, the Kings River is regarded as a treasure. People come here from all over to float on, fish in and play in the Kings River.”
Costner has collected scientific studies that address how people are positively affected when they are in the natural environment. She said there is no doubt that this new corridor, which would result in a clear cut swatch 150 feet wide with 150 feet tall towers every 800 feet, would cause a huge disruption in the harmony of the area’s natural scenes.
“The disruption that this causes undermines, if not destroys, the healing and soothing sense that people get from being in the natural environment,” Costner said. “One of the main reasons I moved here is because of the peace and quiet. There is no doubt the noise (from the power line) will undermine and destroy that. I see this as an unbearable diminishing of my quality of life and the quality of life that I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy, which has always been my dream.”
Costner is also concerned about the health risks for her elderly neighbors, some of whom have pacemakers and hearing aids. “These electromagnetic fields will have an effect on them,” she said. “I am concerned that the power line will affect reception for cell phones, cellular-based Internet access and HDTV, all of which are already spotty and poor because of the area’s hilly terrain.”
Another issue is that the power line would considerably lower the value of her property, which is, by far, her largest financial resource. She also has many friends who own businesses in town such as restaurants, bed and breakfasts, resorts, kayak and canoe outfitting, etc.
“I see that this power line is a very real threat to their livelihoods and to the younger people who are service workers in these tourist related establishments,” she said. “This will cause harm to them. Tourists come to enjoy the beauty here; they will not come to see a clear-cut swath dotted with 150-foot tall towers. Once that beauty is blemished and destroyed, then there goes the livelihood. In this region, most people who live here can be said to ‘eat’ the scenery – no lovely scenery means they do not eat.”
The proposal has caused her and many other property owners many sleepless nights and heavy stress.
“This has caused me such anxiety,” she said. “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since April 1st when I got the notice. I will be 73 years old this fall and the proposal alone has raised my stress levels enormously. This proposal is already harming my health and this will not abate until the proposal is withdrawn or stopped. I won’t be able to bear it if SWEPCO is not stopped.”
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