Mason County News
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Stepping up to Help Solve Problems
Wednesday, October 7, 2009 • Posted October 7, 2009

Friends and Neighbors of Mason and Menard

I want you to know the truth about Clear View Alliance (CVA) and share with you some important information regarding the Lower Colorado River Authority / American Electric Power (LCRA / AEP) 345 kV transmission lines.

As you know, whether any of us like it or not, the Hill Country is about to be crossed by at least one mega-transmission line carrying wind-generated energy from West Texas to the I-35 corridor. The plan was developed by Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and put into effect by a recent legislative order. The proposed Hill County line is a small portion of the 2,400 miles of new lines scheduled to be built within the next two years. These lines are commonly referred to as the CREZ lines and more are likely to follow.

Because of this, CVA was formed by people like you who want to protect the Hill Country as well as our own properties. CVA supporters joined together with the common goal of seeing that LCRA builds the new CREZ transmission lines with deliberate care, causing the least amount of damage possible. When the plans for the transmission lines were first announced, we recognized the futility and tragedy in neighbors fighting each other simply to move the proposed transmission lines off their own properties.

CVA supporters decided that instead of creating lifelong enemies between and among neighbors, we could think outside the box and find solutions in the best interests of the Hill Country. As a result, CVA became determined to convince LCRA to do everything possible to minimize damage to the Hill Country in building the lines. To accomplish our goal, we knew that LCRA would need to consider additional routes, which were not necessarily the shortest distance between two points, as well as less intrusive construction methods, including the use of monopoles instead of lattice towers.

From the beginning CVA recognized that the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) and LCRA have well established routing criteria that encourages the use of existing utility and major highway rights-of-way. However, LCRA’s initial study area and proposed alternate routes did not follow its own routing criteria. As a result, LCRA’s proposed routes went through miles of virgin land, which would require clear cutting at least 150-foot-wide rights-of-way.

Months ago, to address the deficiency, CVA suggested that LCRA expand the study area to include an analysis of the old WTU 138 kV line (now owned by American Electric Power) that crosses through Menard and Mason counties as well as the US 277 – IH 10 route that crosses Kimble County.

Because of an oversight or other non-malicious factor, the Kimble County Commissioners Court did not mention the US 277 to I-10 route; however, CVA never intended Kimble County to be excluded from the study or for Mason and Menard counties to unfairly bear the brunt of this CREZ line. And, although CVA certainly doesn’t speak for the Kimble County Commissioner’s Court, we are certain that the Court never intended to unfairly shift the burden to Mason, Menard or any other counties.

CVA places high importance on minimizing the impacts of the transmission line on the environment, wildlife habitat, tourism, and the long-term economic effects on local communities including diminished land values. And, although CVA has suggested the study of alternative routes and an expanded study area, CVA has not adopted any specific route.

CVA intends to do everything possible to see that LCRA chooses a route that is in the best interests of the Hill Country. We intend to hold LCRA accountable to the PUCT’s directive that LCRA study all alternative routes included in the expanded study area. CVA also intends to hold LCRA accountable for the methods used in constructing the CREZ line, including the use of monopoles instead of lattice towers. Eventually, when LCRA has been held accountable to PUCT’s directives, one route may emerge that is clearly in the best interests of the Hill Country. But we are many steps and studies away from that clarity.

CVA has had opportunity to act in own best interest, but we refused to take it because we sincerely have the best interest of the Hill Country at heart. Just hours before the September 24 PUC meeting where the PUCT extended the route filing deadline and expanded the study area, a question remained about possibly omitting the US 277 to I-10 route from the directive. CVA attorneys contacted LCRA attorneys and expressed our strong desire to expand the study area to include the US 277 to I-10 route, which cuts through Kimble County. As we all now know, the US 277 to I-10 route will definitely be studied as required by the interim order (see map).

CVA is grateful for the support given by Rep. Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville and Senator Troy Fraser of Marble Falls. Both of these legislators have taken a stand to protect the Hill Country. As you may be aware, both of them currently believe the US 277 to IH-10 route from the McCamey D Substation south of San Angelo to Comfort should be the preferred route.

Truth is the line is going to be built somewhere. This is not about my county versus your county. This is about protecting the Hill Country and minimizing the damages now and in the future. This is about citizens exercising our democratic rights to participate in our government to make a better future. Please join us.

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