Of the hundreds of people commenting on the route of a wind energy transmission line near Amarillo, none of them are happy.
A state administrative law judge has scheduled hearings on the route to begin Monday in Austin. Concerned landowners and interested parties such as builder/operator Sharyland Utilities, Rockrose Development, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Southwestern Public Service have filed thousands of pages of testimony.
Nobody says they’re against the lines from Hereford to White Deer, part of a system to take Panhandle power downstate, but they want them in somebody else’s backyard.
The most northern route, preferred by Sharyland, has drawn objections from owners of ranches along the Canadian River Breaks on environmental, cultural and aesthetic grounds.
Mary Emeny, businesswoman and philanthropist, submitted testimony representative of the objections. She and her family own the historic Frying Pan Ranch. It is the site of an historical marker where the election to form Potter County was held. She also cites running streams and sensitive ecological conditions.
Cielo Wind Services has objected to that route because the transmission lines could interfere with the Wildorado 2 wind farm it is developing and selling to Golden Spread Electric Cooperative. SPS also doesn’t prefer that route because it fears the transmission lines would interfere with power lines in the area.
However, other wind developers oppose putting the line farther south because the electrical lines they would have to build to get from the southeastern Oldham County area to the Sharyland transmission line would actually result in more lines and higher costs for power customers downstate who are paying for the project.
Mark Caskey, senior vice president at Sharyland, said, “I estimate that the cost of constructing such interconnection lines will be approximately $1.2 million per mile.”
The corridor that cuts between Amarillo and Canyon in the vicinity of Sundown Lane is preferred by Public Utility Commission staff but has drawn a torrent of negative comments.
“I now have 140-plus formal letters of protest that will be part of my testimony,” said Matt Griffith, head of Rockrose Development, which builds neighborhoods in southwest Amarillo and has plans for several more. “We also have a petition with 110 other names on it.
Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell also plans on testifying.
“It’s not worth the damage it will do to economic development,” he said. “We’re talking homes. We’re talking shopping centers. They need to stop and start all over.”
The lines also could pass near where the county wants to build an airport/business park.
“We’ve got a letter from the (Federal Aviation Administration) that says that’s our air space.”
Others filing protests on the central route include many landowners and real estate specialists. Terry McKee, president of Pak-A-Sak also filed a letter predicting the line would stop development in that area.
Cody Campbell, of Double Eagle Development in Dallas, is looking to add a large amount of retail shopping space in the vicinity because of the “consistent high-demographic growth pattern.”
“Our plans to develop a massive, regional center for commerce and shopping would be immediately ended,” he said.
The next corridor to the south has proposed routes that would cross Palo Duro Canyon just north of the state park. They would be the shortest and least expensive.
Sharyland argues the land is not pristine, but under development for high-end homes.
Tully Currie of Fredricksburg owns land there, and family members own adjacent land. While some of the land is in its raw state, and the family fears towers for the lines will damage it, the growing River Falls subdivision is not.
“It sits on over 2,000 prime acres … has over 200 homesites with a 25-acre school site for two future schools … The lot sizes range from 1 acre to 100 acres in the platted areas, and include rim lots with views of the canyon,” Currie’s testimony states.
The corridor farthest to the south, almost to the Deaf Smith County line, has drawn the fewest protesters, but the ones who have emerged are passionate.
“My dream has always been to own this ranch and to enjoy the peace and quiet and breathtaking, inspirational views of the canyon,” Canyon resident Shannon Burdett, who is a member of the objecting South Palo Duro Canyon Group.
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