106 San Saba citizens took a stand last Monday evening. Literally. The standing room only crowd assembled at 7:00 pm on October 19th to learn more about the proposed high-voltage transmission line proposed for San Saba County.
The proposed line (known as the Brown-Newton Line) would bring energy from West Texas wind farms through Central Texas to population centers like Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC (“Oncor”) is planning the project and would build the line. In June 2009, Oncor held three open houses to discuss its plan and receive public input. The open houses were held in Lampasas, Goldthwaite and Brownwood. Oncor did not host an open house in San Saba.
Oncor recently filed its plan with the Texas Public Utilities Commission. According to the filing, Oncor will acquire about 50 miles of easement right of way in San Saba County. The easement will be 160 feet wide. It will be populated with double-circuit 345kV lattice steel V-tower structures. These towers have a wing span of about 73 feet and rise to a height of 120 feet—about 12 stories. If Oncor’s plan is approved, approximately 220 towers will be installed in our County. To accommodate these large towers and related transmission infrastructure, the land within the easement must be clear-cut.
A diverse group of people attended the meeting. Some were long-time landowners (a few mentioned their ranches had received the heritage ranch designation), some were new to our county, but most were ordinary citizens interested only in doing what’s best for San Saba. Many participants expressed concern about the negative environmental impact such large, industrial structures would have on our County’s reputation as a pristine recreational area.
Others were concerned about the damage this project would have on our fragile environment and on property values. Some worried that the creation of such a large intrusive easement might lead to other negative environmental initiatives (such as additional transmission lines and other infrastructure, underground pipelines, etc.). Everyone seemed to share concern about our precious rivers because Oncor’s preferred routing crosses the Colorado River twice.
No one spoke in favor of the proposal.
The meeting was organized by POSSE (Preserve Our San Saba Environment), a non-profit corporation formed to oppose the routing of the transmission line through San Saba County. POSSE believes that existing utility easements along transportation corridors located north of the Colorado River offer the best chance for meeting our state’s power transmission needs while minimizing the negative environmental and economic impacts. POSSE also contends that its proposal substantially reduces the amount of virgin land which would be destroyed, places the towers in areas where they can be better protected from vandalism and other threats and preserves the wild and scenic nature of the Colorado River.
Roger Whatley, a San Saba landowner and one of POSSE’s founders, presented a description of the current situation and outlined how interested property owners may make their voices heard. Among other actions, POSSE encourages all opposed to the transmission line to file a protest with the PUC. Protests (the original form plus 10 copies) must be received by the PUC by November 6th. Forms may be downloaded from POSSE’s web site; Gene Stewart Real Estate or Sloan & Company Real Estate will make the required copies for any citizen needing help with duplication services.
In addition, POSSE intends to engage a law firm to oppose Oncor’s plans and solicited pledges to help fund this initiative. Although about $50,000 has been pledged, additional funding will be needed to defeat Oncor’s plans for San Saba County. For more information about how to participate in this process, call Roger Whatley at 512.635.4468 or Debbie Taff at 325.372.4346 or visit POSSE’s web site at www.sansabaposse.org.
Additional information about the project or about protesting or intervening may be obtained from POSSE, the PUC or Oncor’s representative, Manuel Flores at 214.486.7341.