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Defining our scene: Power or beauty?

The Hill Country's natural beauty is under assault, some say, all in the name of supplying power to the masses. Last week, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran asked the Texas Public Utility Commission to consider routing new transmission lines down U.S. 277 and east along Interstate 10 to the lift station in Comfort to minimize the impact to private property owners. ..."I understand the need to distribute power efficiently and effectively to all areas of Texas," Hilderbran said in a letter to the PUC. "But not at the expense of diminishing property values and the pristine views of the Hill County."

The Hill Country's natural beauty is under assault, some say, all in the name of supplying power to the masses.

Last week, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran asked the Texas Public Utility Commission to consider routing new transmission lines down U.S. 277 and east along Interstate 10 to the lift station in Comfort to minimize the impact to private property owners.

The route Hilderbran suggested is outside the LCRA study area for proposed routes, but he said the U.S. 277/IH-10 route should have been considered originally.

"I understand the need to distribute power efficiently and effectively to all areas of Texas," Hilderbran said in a letter to the PUC. "But not at the expense of diminishing property values and the pristine views of the Hill County."

Hilderbran also "encouraged the commission to direct LCRA to use single pole structures for the power lines in Eldorado, Sonora, Junction, as well as from Kerrville to the Kendall Station near Comfort," according to a release.

The PUC plans to make a final decision on route placements by April 2010.

Until that time, the LCRA is looking at possible routes and has until Oct. 7 to file an amended Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the Westwind... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Hill Country's natural beauty is under assault, some say, all in the name of supplying power to the masses.

Last week, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran asked the Texas Public Utility Commission to consider routing new transmission lines down U.S. 277 and east along Interstate 10 to the lift station in Comfort to minimize the impact to private property owners.

The route Hilderbran suggested is outside the LCRA study area for proposed routes, but he said the U.S. 277/IH-10 route should have been considered originally.

"I understand the need to distribute power efficiently and effectively to all areas of Texas," Hilderbran said in a letter to the PUC. "But not at the expense of diminishing property values and the pristine views of the Hill County."

Hilderbran also "encouraged the commission to direct LCRA to use single pole structures for the power lines in Eldorado, Sonora, Junction, as well as from Kerrville to the Kendall Station near Comfort," according to a release.

The PUC plans to make a final decision on route placements by April 2010.

Until that time, the LCRA is looking at possible routes and has until Oct. 7 to file an amended Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the Westwind to Kendall facilities.

Following the commission's decision, the LCRA will begin acquiring land easements, which will be between 100 and 160 feet wide. That process could take as long as a year, and construction on the lines probably will begin in late 2010 or early 2011, with completion expected by the end of 2012. The new line will bring wind energy from West Texas into the Hill Country via double-circuit, 345-kilovolt lines on steel lattice structures. Although the specific height of the structures will depend on their locations, LCRA estimates that they will be between 120 and 180 feet tall, according to the release.

Many people around the Hill Country are upset with the proposed routes, which can be accessed on the LCRA Web site, and the impact the lines will have on local wildlife and aesthetic purposes.

After thousands of Hill Country residents attended LCRA open houses throughout the spring, more than 300 people came to a presentation featuring the Texas Wildlife Association in Fredericksburg last month. The event was sponsored by the group Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment.

"We believe the lines should be implemented with minimal impact, including using existing right-of-ways where possible," said Robert Weatherford, president of Save Our Scenic Hill Country. "Like a number of other groups, we believe LCRA should use monopoles, not lattice structures, and work with landowners and give them fair compensation."

If a line is chosen to go through private property, the landowner goes through a process of trying to receive fair market value for the easement. This includes going before a special commission of three members, appointed by a district judge, made up of local real estate brokers, who look at appraisals from LCRA and private appraisals of the landowners choosing - often hundreds of thousands of dollars apart. The panel makes its ruling, and the landowner either can accept the decision or choose to proceed to court. Any easement LCRA pays for is reimbursed to LCRA from the state.

Glen Webb, an Abilene attorney who also serves as TWA's secretary, gave a presentation during the Fredericksburg meeting about the effects of the growing wind energy production in the state of Texas.

"The single greatest issue facing Texas landowners is the development and transmission of renewable energy sources," Webb said. "Texas is the prime candidate for this new energy because of land availability (130 million acres in open spaces), private ownership of those lands and a population of 24 million that is expected to double by 2040."

Webb said the energy companies get tax credits for new transmission lines, which then are traded like a commodity.

"There are no regulations established to govern the wind industry," states TWA's position paper. "TWA favors reasonable wind industry regulation that protects Texas' natural resources and provides permanent bonding authority for remediation, as well as voluntary efforts to develop wind farm standards."

One of TWA'a main issues concerns LCRA having the right of eminent domain - the power of government to take private property for a public purpose - for private enrichment, which could occur with the tax credits for large companies.

According to TWA, this is the largest use of eminent domain since Dwight D. Eisenhower's road project.

"The Hill Country is a priority area," said Kirby Brown, TWA executive vice president, who also spoke at the event.

Brown also stated private landowners should consult an attorney who specializes in leases before signing any agreements with LCRA or any power company.

"Be extremely careful," Brown said. "Once you sign the lease, they aren't going to let you come back and renegotiate."


Source: http://www.dailytimes.com/s...

AUG 6 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21592-defining-our-scene-power-or-beauty
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