Brent Snider said he is more worried about his children’s health than the view from the living room.
Just a quarter-mile from where he is building his dream home, perched atop a hill in southwest Kingfisher County, a high-voltage transmission line is expected to be built by 2010.
The line will bring electricity generated from wind power to Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. customers. Snider’s home is on Cimarron Electric Co-Operative power, so he won’t see the benefits from the line staring down on him from atop 115-foot-tall poles.
“The only concern I have is the radiation,” Snider said while looking over the panoramic view of nearby wheat fields.
From Woodward to northwest Oklahoma City, landowners are debating and bracing for the construction project. The power line is expected to carry 345,000 volts of electricity from wind turbines south of Woodward. The line will run southeast for about 120 miles to a power sub-station on NW 164 between Council Road and Rockwell Avenue.
While wind power is expected to decrease the dependence on natural gas or coal to generate electricity, some ill winds are blowing down the line.
Piedmont leaders are concerned OG&E’s route will cut through the highest-valued property in their city limits and slow future growth.
OG&E customers will foot the bill for the $211 million line by paying an extra $1.50 a month on their electric bill. A date to start construction has not been announced.
The company has the right under state law to buy a utility right-of-way easement for the line from landowners. Easements from 200-feet-wide to 100-feet-wide are now being acquired from property owners along the line route, OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said.
More wind farms are being planned west of Okarche and east of Kingfisher that are expected to tie into the line.
Snider, who has a 4-year-old boy and a 20-month-old girl, is concerned about the affects of living with so much electricity overhead.
“I can deal with the view, that is fine,” he said. “I’m just concerned for the health of my children. What parent wouldn’t be?”
Alford said health should not be a concern.
“There is no correlation between the location of these facilities and health risks,” he said.
Snider, meanwhile, plans to move into his new house in November. He said he has ordered a device that measures the level of radiation in electromagnetic fields.
Price of progress
The plan for the OG&E line derailed the possibility of one day building an airport just south of Kingfisher, City Manager Richard Reynolds said.
A Kingfisher airport committee was formed this year to study plans for a paved airport south of the city. That area was tabbed as the best spot for an airport. Not now.
“There will never be an airport south of Kingfisher. We’re limited to where we can be already because we can’t be less than 25 miles from another airport. It (power line) would absolutely eliminate an airport south of Kingfisher,” Reynolds said.
In Piedmont, the power line route is 300 feet from city council member John Brown’s house. The route passes within 100 feet of a lot his father, Jim Brown, wants to build on, too. John Brown, who has seen Piedmont’s population nearly triple in a decade, said the power line could stymie growth in the fastest growing part of Piedmont.
“Nobody wants to live next to these lines,” John Brown said.
He said homeowners also are concerned about the height of the poles – which would be the tallest in the OG&E system – and how close they would be to houses.
“These poles could fall on a house,” John Brown said. “I don’t think that is right.”
Kingfisher resident Billy Murray has scrapped his plans to build a house on land he owns about 7 miles northwest of Okarche. Murray said he has found several Texas horned lizards along the route, but he does not think concerns for the rare reptile will change the course of the line.
“There is really no fighting them,” he said. “They are cutting my property in half. Who would think in America a company could just cram something down your throat?”
OG&E officials say they know about these concerns.
“We think there is a significant public benefit for Oklahoma and for the state’s economic development to tap into wind power,” Alford said.
OG&E spokeman Gil Broyles said officials mailed letters to landowners along the route and advertised four open houses to answer questions about the transmission line in May. Open houses, held at schools and churches, were done in Woodward, Canton, Okarche and Piedmont. Broyles said the company has made efforts to communicate with landowners.
“We have tried to get as much information to people along the route as we can,” Broyles said.
By Robert Medley
21 July 2008
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