Last week appears to mark the end of our local concerns about a large 345Kv Transmission Line being built in Mason County. On Thursday, January 13, the Public Utility Commissioners met in a public meeting and heard several hours of comments from affected landowners and lawyers about a variety of routing options and opinions concerning the routing from MaCamey D substation in west Texas to the Kendall substation in Comfort. At the end of the meeting, it appeared that Chairman Smitherman had agreement from the other Commissioners that the "P-lines" routes, those paralleling an existing 138 kV line in Menard/Mason/Gillespie counties, should be eliminated from consideration. Prior to the meeting the Chairman filed a memo which indicated he believes the best routes from which the Commission should choose are those which parallel IH-10 for a substantial portion of their length, and most of the discussion and consideration was centered in that corridor.
The concerns of our Mason community were not discussed significantly after we had read and considered Chairman Smitherman’s memo in which he stated that the Mason portion of the routing options should not be selected "as these routes are longer and more expensive than many of the other routes." He also stated that "these links rank poorly from an environmental perspective" and that the existing "AEP 138Kv line running near Mason and Menard is not necessarily a ‘compatible’ right of way". These comments echo the statements of the Administrative Law Judges that heard many days of testimony a couple of months ago regarding all of the issues of this routing, and presented a carefully considered opinion on this very difficult and emotional case. At last Thursday’s meeting, the PUC heard from elected officials and interested parties from 11:30 until 5:00 p.m. with one 10 minute break, and after a short discussion about route issues among the Commissioners, they agreed to take the P-line off the table for consideration before they adjourned at 5:30. The PUC will meet again on Thursday, January 20, to select a final route to be built, and until that is complete we cannot be 100% sure Mason will be free of this threat to our historic heritage and natural environment, but they are on the record saying that the P-line in Mason is not going to be considered.
During the past sixteen months, since Mason was brought into consideration when the study area was enlarged, the elected officials and many concerned citizens have worked hard to be certain that all of the negative impacts of a large high power transmission line were understood by everyone involved in this decision. The County and City joined forces to form a 391 Commission to demand coordinated inquiry and planning from several agencies of the government, and concerned citizens formed the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association to provide the community a means to support and fund the efforts to protect our historic and scenic resources from the devastation this routing could bring to Mason. There have been many hours of meetings and volumes of research collected to support our position, and at the culmination last Thursday the County of Mason was represented by Judge Jerry Bearden, the City of Mason by Mayor Brent Hinckley, and The P- Line steering committee in attendance was Lee McMillan, Lee Lasater, Ron Crocker, Patti Myrick, and Marvin Pipkin along with their attorney Kay Trostle. There is no doubt that the strong coordinated response to this threat to our heritage and environment was a key factor in the consideration to not utilize the Mason route and there is recognition that the future will present additional threats to our community and way of life. Whether it be water issues, development and subdivision concerns, or some other problem we are not even aware of today, we recognize that only with organized and coordinated response can we protect the community and heritage we enjoy now, and so we will remain diligent and maintain our organizations to protect all that is important to Mason.