Kimble County Tries a Fast One
Anyone who’s driven from Brady to Brownwood in the last year or two has probably noticed the very imposing electrical transmission line that crosses over the highway, strung on massive steel lattice towers twelve stories tall. This line connects power stations out west to the grid serving Fort Worth and Dallas. If the Kimble County Commissioners Court and an organization of landowners in the Junction area have their way, towers like that could be in Mason soon.
Early this spring the Lower Colorado River Authority applied to the Texas Public Utility Commission for authorization to build a 345-kilovolt transmission line from a power station in Tom Green County to a proposed sub-station near Boerne. Legislation creating the ‘Competitive Renewable Energy Zones’ for promoting alternative energy sources in Texas allows the plan to be moved quickly through the application process. This line will carry electricity generated by wind farms around McCamey, or possibly from coal fired plants near Fort Stockton, to users in the San Antonio area.
The original route for this line as planned by the LCRA passed through Schleicher, Menard, Sutton, Kimble and Kerr Counties, making a fairly straight run between the two power stations. Public information meetings were held in late spring to show affected landowners the proposed course.
Landowners in the Junction area, in particular, were not happy with what they learned. Bill Neiman, owner of Native American Seed Company, discovered that the line planned by LCRA crossed one corner of his seed farm. Opponents of the LCRA proposal rallied around Mr. Neiman and formed the Clear View Alliance, Inc., specifically to mitigate the effects of the line on Kimble County.
On June 23rd the Kimble County Commissioners Court passed Resolution 09-05, specifically citing the Clear View Alliance, urging the Public Utility Commission and the LCRA to “expand the presently identified study area for possible transmission of energy,” and “adopt the proposed alternate route following, utilizing and/or paralleling existing lines traveling through Menard, Mason and Gillespie Counties.” An attached map shows the new lines superimposed on old lines following the San Saba River to near Hext, passing through Double Knobs and Grit, and on to the sub-station on the south side of Mason. From Mason south to Fredericksburg the new line is similarly superimposed over the existing power line that roughly parallels Hwy 87.
The Clear View Alliance is now raising money to hire lawyers and a public relations agent to fight or at least mitigate any new transmission line through Kimble County. Their avowed number one goal is, per one of their news bulletins, “Immediately petition the PUC to order LCRA to expand the study area to include better options including existing hi-capacity transmission right-of-ways or US 277-S / I-10 East.” Their secondary goals are using single hollow poles vs. the lattice structures and narrowing right of way requirements. The law firm favored to represent the Clear View group is Clark, Thomas and Winters, an old line Austin institution with close ties to the public utility business in Texas.
LCRA will file their final preferred route with the PUC on October 28th, and their application will be considered by the Commissioners at that time. Sara Morgenroth, Senior Regulatory Case Manager for LCRA, urges anyone interested in this project to stay involved in the process. All communication to the PUC should mention the docket number, 37049.
A former City of Mason official, overheard this past week, said that an unnamed LCRA representative had told him how the high line route would be decided; “All the letters of protest will be stacked up by where they come from, and the place with the shortest stack will get the power line.”
Contacts and reference:
Sara Morgenroth [Sara.Morgenroth@LCRA.ORG]
Public Utility Commission of Texas
Filing clerk, Central Records, docket # 37049
1701 N. Congress Ave.
P.O. Box 13326
Austin TX 78711-3326