Thursday, August 01, 2013
SWEPCO’s proposed 345 kiloVolt (kV) line through Carroll County is just the beginning of plans that SWEPCO, Entergy and the Southern Power Pool (SPP) have for major transmission lines in the region, according to speakers at a July 25 meeting in Berryville. The meeting drew about 100 people and was moderated by retired ABC World News correspondent and long time resident of Carroll County, Erin Hayes.
“There is the potential for many more lines in our area, and not just regular power lines like what we have here now,” said Hayes. “If these were just regular power lines, we wouldn’t be here tonight. These are not like anything you have ever seen in this county. These are urban-sized.” Proposed lines would stretch from Shipe Rd. in Benton County to just north of Berryville, about 48 miles.
Hayes said the proposed power lines, averaging seven towers per mile and standing twice the height of Christ of the Ozarks statue, would change Carroll County permanently.
“There is a lot at stake here,” Hayes said. “In documents presented by SWEPCO to the state, it’s clear these power lines are not needed to bring power to Carroll County – they’re to bring power through Carroll County. They are an electricity superhighway to ship electricity somewhere else.”
Hayes said the SWEPCO Shipe-to-Kings River plan is just part of a much bigger plan, which, according to SWEPCO’s documents, includes many more – and some bigger – lines in the future including a 500 kV line running east and west from the proposed new $20 million Kings River Station, which is proposed on a site located northwest of Berryville along State Route 143.
Joe Scott, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Berryville, talked about the potential for water in the karst geology of the region to be contaminated by construction and maintenance of the line, including herbicide spraying.
“We live in this big sponge,” said Scott, who was speaking not for the city, but as a private citizen. “The porous and fractured nature of karst make it very susceptible to pollution.”
Also attending the meeting was Heath Rauschenberger, a karst biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Rauschenberger, based in Huntsville, provided copies of a four-page letter from the USF&W regarding potential impacts of the project on threatened and endangered species. The letter said sediment and nutrients from the project could have direct, indirect and/or cumulative effects to mussels, fish hosts and/or their habitats.
Rauschenberger said right now it is a state issue and no federal permits have been applied for. He offered help to owners of private land in Carroll County who are interested in finding out if they have threatened and endangered species on their property. Rauschenberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (479) 738-1384.
Susan Brashears, co-owner of Brashears Furniture, said people speaking at the recent Arkansas Public Service Commission hearing in Eureka Springs really opened her eyes to potential damages from the project. “I’m trying to understand the need for a project this size,” she said.
She said the project could have a negative impact on tourism, property values, property sales and tax revenues. If the project results in fewer people moving to the area and retiring, and current residents leaving because of the power lines, that would impact even non-tourism related businesses like Brashears.
Also speaking at the meeting was Doug Stowe, who warned that more huge power lines would be coming if SWEPCO gets this one approved. “They are putting this power line into the $20 million Kings River Station that goes nowhere,” he said. “The power line is designed so a second circuit could be added. One circuit is four times the power we need, and two circuits would be eight times the power needed in Carroll County.”
Stowe advised people not to get intimidated about digging in to learn about electric power transmission lines. “We are smart citizens in Carroll County, and we can understand,” he said. “If SWEPCO can’t explain why it is needed, they aren’t doing a good job.”
Pat Costner, a founder and director of Save The Ozarks (STO), said transmission line expert, Dr. Hyde Merrill, has testified there is no evidence the project is needed to relieve transmission line overload – the justification given by SWEPCO for the project. Costner said even if the line were needed, Merrill has outlined six alternatives that would be less expensive and far less damaging to the environment and property values.
Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Green Forest) appeared to be sympathetic to audience concerns saying he was excited to be talking about holding government accountable for use of eminent domain to take private property. He said that “throws up red flags” for him, and there is definitely a downside to the project. But in questions following his presentation,
Ballinger indicated he was remaining neutral on the project because an unnamed person he trusts told him the power line was necessary and that in 20 years, if we were in bad shape over power lines, he would regret it. Ballinger has accepted a $350 campaign contribution from SWEPCO, $250 from SWEPCO’s parent company, AEP, and $500 from the Arkansas Electric Cooperative.
SWEPCO was invited to the meeting but declined.
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