New objections are being raised to a major transmission project in the Hill Country that state regulators approved nearly two years ago and now is being built.
The controversy continues over what’s known as the McCamey-Kendall project, a 345-kilovolt transmission line that will link substations in Kendall and Schleicher counties.
The Kerrville City Council last month passed a resolution asking the Public Utility Commission to suspend work on the 140-mile line, which is part of the state’s Competitive Renewable Energy Zone initiative. The CREZ calls for 2,400 miles of new lines.
The resolution notes that Congress hasn’t voted to extend the federal production tax credit that lets wind farm owners cut their tax liability by producing electricity.
“We’ve got to move on this before they get too far on the CREZ line and it can’t be stopped,” said state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville.
Hilderbran is leading the fight against the lines, which will run largely along Interstate 10 from Comfort to west of Junction.
“It is not practical to invest in the infrastructure of new lines for an industry that could shrink so dramatically in less than a year,” he said.
Texas now has excess capacity in its power grid, he said, and wind development is likely to slow if the tax credit expires at year’s end as he predicts.
“Texans should not have to fund new transmission lines when the future of the wind industry in Texas is uncertain and when we are not even using current lines to their capacity,” Hilderbran wrote in a letter to the PUC. “Additionally, property owners should not be forced to give up their land for transmission lines that are unnecessary, and the Texas Hill Country should not be scarred by a line that will be underutilized.”
The PUC hired the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Transmission Services Corp. to build the line, and LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma said: “We will continue doing that unless and until the PUC tells us to do otherwise.”
PUC officials saw more sense in putting the towers in existing rights of way rather than destroying undisturbed land, but critics complain the towers will ruin a scenic route and devalue land along I-10.
“It’s disturbing that they go in and open a right of way that’s so large,” Junction Mayor Larry Maddux said of work near his city and farther west.
Kerrville officials are particularly opposed to lines near the city’s “gateway” at I-10 and Texas 16, which features a large sign. Mayor Jack Pratt said Texas Department of Transportation officials recently agreed to relocate the nearest pole about 300 feet farther west.
That would be good, he said, but even better would be the cancellation of the power line.
“If the tax credits are going to stop, why spend further citizens’ dollars on a line that’s not going to be useable?” Pratt told Kerr County Commissioners last week.