Elected officials and potentially affected landowners were notified this past week of the schedule for Open Houses presented by LCRA Transmission Services to inform the public about the proposed route through Mason County. The Open House in Mason is planned for Wednesday, February 17 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Community Building at the City Park, and the public is encouraged to attend even if you do not get a formal invitation. These are arranged as a come-and-go style open house and no formal presentation will be presented, but LCRA staff will be available to answer questions and aerial photography maps will be shown which will indicate the proposed right-of-way of the transmission lines. Citizens are encouraged to ask questions and examine at their leisure a number of exhibits that explain the project, the line siting process, the Public Utility Commission approval process and other related topics.
This Open House is very important to us locally because this is one of the most direct ways we can voice our concerns and opinions about the proposed transmission route through Mason, and we will all be effected by the visual blight and the destruction of the natural beauty that is our heritage, even if the right-of-way does not impact our individual property. There have been several articles in the past few months about this CREZ transmission line and the system improvements for the electric grid in Texas, and we recognize the need for change in our modern world, but we would strongly encourage everyone concerned about the future of Mason to put this on your calendar and make your opinions known. LCRA TSC will be building a double-circuit 345 KV transmission line, primarily on lattice structures, to move electricity generated from the wind farms in west Texas to the urban areas along the I-35 corridor and these lines are expected to be completed by 2013.
On July 6, 2010 LCRA TSC will recommend to the PUC the preferred route for this transmission line and submit the proper applications, and in the next five months we need to be proactive in voicing the concerns about considering Mason County in that routing. As we have considered this problem for the past few months, I believe that there is an effective three-prong approach to making the officials aware of our belief that Mason is not a reasonable choice for this routing. The First approach the elected officials have taken was to establish a Sub-Regional Planning Commission under the guidelines of Section 391 of the Local Government Code. Using this tool, we have had direct meetings here in Mason with representatives of LCRA, the Public Utilities Commission, and Texas Parks and Wildlife, and have very specifically voiced our concerns and officially stated that we do not want this transmission line routed through Mason County. We are continuing to work and will be meeting in the next few weeks with representatives of Texas Parks and Wildlife and the US Game and Fish Commission to examine the regulations protecting the natural habitats effected by construction of this line in Mason. The Second prong of the attack was the organization of the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association, which is a citizen’s group that is active and working to make sure our county is protected, and in addition to raising awareness is raising funds for the possible legal fight to protect Mason. This group is open to everyone who is concerned, and there is a membership meeting tentatively scheduled for early March to further the objectives of the group and make people aware of the specific ways they can help.
The Third portion of the actions to protect our Mason environment is our citizen input and outcry, and this is where you can directly help by planning to attend the Open House in a couple of weeks. Last year there were six Open House meetings held before Mason and adjoining counties were added to the study area, and the input received was seriously considered in the planning LCRA TSC was working on. During February there will be seven additional Open House dates, and you can go to any one of them and get much the same information, but if you can come to the one here in Mason on February 17 and voice your opinions, we can perhaps have a significant impact on the planning process and the consideration of which preferred routes will be recommended. LCRA’s invitation to this Open House says, "we believe that public input is important….and your input would be greatly appreciated, so we hope you will attend one of these important meetings." I believe that your input is not merely important, but if we are to protect the beauty and heritage of our community, it is imperative for everyone in Mason to come out on Wednesday, February 17 to voice our opinions.
If you need additional information, please contact your elected officials or you can call the dedicated project number for LCRA at 1-800-776-5272, ext. 4590. More information about this and other CREZ projects is available online at www.lcra.org/crez but the very best and most specific way to answer your questions is to come to the Open House. Put February 17 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on your calendar, remind your friends and neighbors about the importance of this meeting, and come prepared to voice your opinions and concerns and together we can protect Mason for generations to come.