The Public Utility Commission voted Wednesday to approve the route for a wind energy transmission line to run from near Childress to Lefors.
The first final approval of a Panhandle wind energy line came despite last-minute protests by Gray County commissioners and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
“The commission expressed some frustration in getting the information so late after the contested case was finished,” said Terry Hadley, PUC spokesman.
“Given that it was a unanimous agreement among the parties, the commission approved it.”
Builder/operator Cross Texas Transmission, land owners along the route and the commission’s staff all agreed on the route.
“The commission observed the settlement struck the best balance, including on wildlife,” Hadley said.
The Gray County commissioners court sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region director dated Sept. 7.
In it, the commission said it realized the complications wind industry development could bring to the county as the agreed route would go through lesser prairie chicken habitat. It asked for his assistance in changing the route
The bird is second in line to be listed as an endangered species, and threats to its habitat could move it up the list.
The federal government can impose controls on development in the habitat of an endangered species from oil and gas exploration and production to agricultural activities.
TPWD sent a letter to the PUC dated Tuesday warning selection of the route could push USFWS to list the prairie chicken as endangered.
“Such a listing, which TPWD and its many cooperation landowners and partners have been working studiously to avoid, would have substantial ramifications to future land use practices,” the letter states.
“The listing … would also ensure that future decisions regarding the species’ conservation and management would be made, not by the state of Texas as is now the case, but by the federal government.”
The line would run through about 14.9 miles of the lesser prairie chicken’s estimated habitat.