DENTON – Oncor’s biggest fight in getting green energy from West Texas to North Texas will play out in Austin next week.
Oncor wants its new 345 kilovolt transmission lines from Krum to cut through Denton; then run parallel US 380 before cutting up through Collin County to Anna.
“It [the route] comes close to four or five of our educational facilities,” said Dr. Curtis Ramsey, Denton ISD trustee.
Denton schools say the utility’s preferred route could undercut the growing district and might drive down home prices, which would have a negative effect on the tax base.
“It’s not a case of ‘not in my backyard,'” Ramsey said. “We know DISD needs the power, and we know it has to get there. We just think there’s a better route to get there.”
Dozens also worry the larger lines will overshadow an untouched greenbelt east of Denton. But Oncor said if this route is selected, it will use a monopole design to minimize impact there.
Farther west in Collin County, Frisco fears the new transmission towers will thwart development along US 380, the primary route linking Denton and McKinney.
In all, more than 700 have filed opposition to Oncor’s proposal on the Public Utility Commission’s Web site. Most urge that the new transmission lines bringing wind energy from West Texas go north of Lake Ray Roberts, where it is less populated.
Late Friday, Mohammed Ally, the Public Utility Commission’s own engineer, agreed.
In testimony filed with the commission, Ally suggested the northern route would only impact 104 habitable structures compared to 215 in the south.
Ally said the northern route would avoid the greenbelt and be cheaper per mile to build.
“Cost and distance aren’t the only factors the Public Utility Commission considers. Whichever route the Public Utility Commission chooses will be the one Oncor will be happy to build,” Catherine Cuellar, Oncor spokeswoman, explained.
But the northern route is 30 miles longer, and Oncor said it would cost an additional $20 million to construct – not to mention being likely to impact more land owners.
Still, Cuellar said, the utility isn’t married to its preferred route. It must choose one according to PUC rules, she explained.
Commissioners have changed Oncor’s preferred routes more than half the time, Cuellar added.
An administrative law judge in Austin will hold a hearing on the issue next Monday and then make a recommendation to the Public Utility Commission, which has final say.
Whatever is decided, Cuellar said, Oncor hopes to build the new power lines in two years.
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