Thursday, July 25, 2013
Citing widespread opposition from the public and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, three of the six routes proposed by SWEPCO for a high voltage transmission line from Shipe Road in Benton County to near the Kings River north of Berryville now are “least favored routes.” But opponents including the citizens’ group Save The Ozarks (STO) are pressing forward with opposition to all routes.
“As a result of information gathered from the numerous public and governmental commenters, and the testimony of interveners, SWEPCO believes that routes 62, 86 and 91 should now be considered the least favored routes,” said SWEPCO expert witness Brian A. Johnson in testimony filed July 19. “Thousands of individuals around the country have verified SWEPCO’s decision as they have expressed their opposition to any transmission lines in close proximity to Thorncrown Chapel, Inspiration Point and historic downtown Eureka Springs. In addition, the Corps has recently indicated that it prefers the company’s proposed route 33 as well as alternate routes 108 and 109. Those routes provide practical alternatives to the routes which would require a Corps of Engineers easement to cross Beaver Lake in the Indian Creek area. The Corps will not allow easements over Corps property if practical alternatives exist.”
SWEPCO’s new ranking of the routes is route 33, followed by the most northern route, 109, and the most southern route, 108. SWEPCO has recommended that routes 62, 86 and 91 be removed from further consideration unless and until the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) determines that routes 33, 109 and 108 are not reasonable. In that event, SWEPCO said it would initiate a renewed consideration of easements for routes 62, 86 and 91 with the Corps.
SWEPCO continues to assert that its proposed route 33 is a reasonable route and thus should be approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
Doug Stowe, a director for Save The Ozarks (STO) whose home is along the route closest to Eureka Springs that now has least favored status, said the route selection methodology has been shown to be clearly flawed because it didn’t take into consideration possible response from federal agencies or response from residents and business owners near the White River, Inspiration Point and the Eureka Springs Historic District.
Ilene Powell, a power line opponent helping to create awareness for STO and fight SWEPCO's proposed project, said it isn’t accurate to say the three routes were axed or abandoned.
Powell, who is an affected landowner for four of the six routes, said, “They are merely lower on the list. They can always revisit them if the other three are denied. Personally, I think this is a strategy to get people on those three routes to not fight anymore and give SWEPCO less resistance to the project. Do you think people on those routes will continue to fight the other three if they are considered ‘safe’? It's a diversion tactic. “
Powell said every route has a negative impact, and she found offensive photos included in Johnson’s exhibits including one of a boy riding a bicycle under a massive tower.
“Do they really believe that people enjoy or welcome these lines on their property?” Powell asked. “That neighborhoods flourish around these towers? Could they be more out of touch? All routes are a gateway to the Ozarks and Eureka Springs. No route is acceptable. The entire project must be denied or all will suffer from it.”
Dr. James Helwig, a geologist who has joined with neighbors to intervene in proceedings, said at the end of the day it will be the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) that decides if the project goes forward and, if so, which route is chosen.
“It is up to the APSC regarding a decision to be based on the evidence presented in evidentiary testimony at the end of August in Little Rock,” Helwig said. “There are still many issues and factors in play, all to be decided by the APSC, not SWEPCO or its allies, so opponents of the line need to remain vigilant.”
Richard Quick, whose property would be traversed by the southern route 108 that has moved up in SWEPCO’s route selection criteria, said he agrees that the removal of consideration of the three routes is not an elimination of any routes, but simply a change in priority with routes 108 and 109 moving upward in preference.
“Route 91 was destined to fail and routes 62 and 86 also had a fatal error in going over, across and through the Inspiration Point scenic overlook and along the White River,” Quick said. “If those three routes can be brought back to the table, then they are effectively still on the table. The ploy is still divide and conquer. And yes, of course, this is just what we route 108 people feared and expected. Nothing is really changed, though. The entire project is still opposed. The 345kV transmission line is not needed for eastern Carroll County service.”
Quick took issue with SWEPCO saying, "Thousands of individuals around the country have verified SWEPCO’s decision as they have expressed their opposition to any transmission lines in close proximity to Thorncrown Chapel, Inspiration Point, and historic downtown Eureka Springs."
Quick said those same “thousands of individuals” also said they “opposed the entire project.”
“They didn’t verify SWEPCO’s decision,” Quick said. “What the people verified was that the whole project is bad and should be rejected.”
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