Transmission line will claim Ozarks' beauty

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On Jan. 17, Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin ruled in favor of SWEPCO's application for a 345 kV transmission line from the Shipe Road station in Centerton to the proposed 345 kV Kings River station in Berryville, to the disappointment of numerous residents who have questioned the need for this line and opposed this project from the start.

Griffin approved Route 109, which goes into Missouri, and then drops back into Carroll County. Some are applauding her decree that SWEPCO take its line into Missouri, seeing it as a victory of sorts, hoping Missouri will never grant permission for the line in their state. But this route is no victory, just as none of the original six would be.

Route 109

Where 109 drops back into Carroll County and continues east, it is the same as Route 33.

Route 33 -- the one SWEPCO wanted all along.

We don't know whether Judge Griffin ever took a drive along this portion of the route through Carroll County or whether she made a serious study of the terrain along it. Maybe if she had, she would have seen its scenic beauty and understood its importance to the local tourist economy. If she had studied the terrain and read newspaper reports of the flooding of Butler Creek in the last few years, especially last August, she also might have understood the threat to the environment and the health and safety of local residents the line along this route could cause.

That flood in August destroyed a winery; a huge barn; the historic wooden train trestle bridge at the end of the Beaver Walking Trail; the supports to two bridges crossing the creek (costing the county thousands to repair); and almost drowned a local woman, who fought for three hours in flood waters, clinging to a tree to survive while other trees near her dislodged and swept by.

Butler Creek floods every year, to varying degree. The runoff from erosion from the transmission line's right-of-way on the steep 1,200 foot ridge slope along this route (the line will be below its crest, and erosion runoff will flow into the creek) can only make this even more dangerous.

You won't find any of these impacts in SWEPCO's statements about this route. In fact, Butler Creek is not even shown on a map SWEPCO submitted with its application.

Many homes with drinking water wells also lie below or near where the line will run, and it is likely that herbicides used on the right-of-way will contaminate those wells.

As far as the impact to tourism is concerned, make no mistake: contrary to what SWEPCO has claimed, the transmission line will be visible from the historic, one-lane, wooden, swinging Beaver Bridge and it will be visible all along the scenic drive out of Beaver along Highway 187 up to Highway 62, a blight on the pastoral beauty of this lush, green and peaceful valley whose road runs alongside the delightful, dancing Butler Creek (in its gentle aspect) that brings many car and motorcycle clubs and other tourists to drive it each season.

The residents of Eureka Springs, Beaver and surrounding areas successfully challenged the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's plan in 2001 to replace the Beaver Bridge. AHTD listened to residents about the negative impacts it would have, and they took "no action" because so many were against it.

Many, many more have been against this transmission line.

Why won't SWEPCO, Judge Griffin and others listen now and believe that the locals know what they are talking about?

They are not against electricity or progress, but they question the full costs to their economic well-being, health and safety and the environment.

If this transmission line must go through, officials need to find a route that no one objects to and that can be demonstrated not to have these serious impacts.

Route 109/33 is not it.

(For a full text of the concerns about impacts specifically to the Carroll County portion of Route 109/33, visit this link at the APSC website: http://www.apscservices.info/ReceivedDocs/1528_7_08272013_8_1.pdf).