The LCRA met with the Mason County Commissioners' Court on Monday morning, then returned that afternoon for an open house with the City. Both meetings drew large crowds, and lots of questions, as Mason residents expressed their concern about the possibility of high voltage transmission lines being built through the county.
Steve Dyer, Public Affairs Representative for LCRA, and Sara Morgenroth, Sr. Regulatory Case Manager - Regulatory Services for LCRA, were at both meetings. Ms. Morgenroth is the individual who has been handling the LCRA's application to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) for the new CREZ lines bringing energy from west and north Texas wind farms to the urban areas of the state.
Ms. Morgenroth explained that LCRA was granted the bid to construct the CREZ line (Competitive Renewable Energy Zones) in January of 2009. At that time, the PUC instructed LCRA that the normal 18 month period for examining possible routes had been shortened to 9 months due to the urgency of getting the wind power connected to the Texas power grid. She explained that, until September 16, she and her team had already finished their process of surveys, public meetings and landowner notifications, and she was ready to submit her application on October 28th.
However, the PUC had been receiving comments and requests from other groups, particularly in Kimble County. Both the Kimble County Commissioners' Court and the City of Junction had submitted requests directly to the PUC asking that the route most likely to be identified as the preferred one for LCRA's lines (running through Kimble County) be reexamined, and that the study area for the route include a potential corridor paralleling the old West Texas Utilities line which runs from Menard, to Mason, and on to Fredericksburg.
The LCRA, at the request of the PUC and its commissioners, filed a joint application to delay submission of the transmission line route request. That request received final approval on Thursday, September 24th. Ms. Morgenroth explained that all the routing information they have examined up to this point is "still on the table," but clarified that the PUC had instructed LCRA that they wanted the application to include as many potential routes as they could identify so that the commissioners would be able to have enough information to make their final determination. Ms. Morgenroth told the crowd at the Eckert Civic Center on Monday afternoon that this was the first time that she knew of that the process had been stopped at such a late date with instructions to expand the study area.
Responding to questions from the crowds about what Mason residents can do to prevent the 180' foot, metal lattice transmission towers from being constructed through Mason County and along the edge of the city, Ms. Morgenroth several times repeated one piece of advice - "stay involved." She explained that residents can monitor comments at the PUC web site (http://www.puc.state.tx.us/index.cfm), at the LCRA's web site, (http://www.lcra.org/energy/trans/crez/index.html), and by following the articles in the newspaper. She also explained that ALL comments regarding the routes are collected by the LCRA and PUC, and are a matter of public record.
When one of the questions touched on what, exactly, should be referenced in letters, Ms. Morgenroth explained that she could not provide specific guidance to people; but, correspondence should be focused on the damages, problems and detriment that would be caused to property or a region by the installation of the lines. She told one of the speakers that he was giving exactly what was necessary in comments when he told she and the crowd that the lines would go directly over a house with a young child who would be playing under high voltage lines.
Mayor Brent Hinckley and County Judge Jerry Bearden encouraged the attendees to be vocal and to let the PUC and LCRA know how the lines would affect them. They were asked to give very specific, and personal, details about the problems and hazards that they felt the lines would pose to them, to their families, their land, and their community.
Those wishing to write a letter are encouraged to either send the letter to Ms. Morgenroth at the LCRA, or to one of the three PUC commissioners. It is those three commissioners (appointed by Governor Rick Perry) who will make the final determination of a selected route.
The three commissioners, and their mailing address, are:
Barry T. Smitherman - Chairman
Donna L. Nelson - Commissioner
Kenneth W. Anderson, Jr. - Commissioner
TX Public Utility Commission
PO Box 13326
Austin, TX 78711-3326
To contact Ms. Morgenroth, send correspondence to:
PO Box 220
Austin, TX 78767-0220
or email her at:
Steve Dyer, the regional representative for LCRA, lives in San Saba. He can be reached by email at:
During this process, which has now been extended to July of 2010, it is also important to let your other elected state officials know of your feelings. Those names, and the addresses, are:
Rep. Harvey Hilderbran
Room GW.12, Capitol Building
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-1449 Fax
Senator Troy Fraser
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
Ms. Morgenroth explained that there will be six public meetings held, probably in January, in Mason and other affected communities. She said that comments can be submitted at any time, and can actually be tracked on the PUC website.