The Franklin County Quorum Court passed a Resolution opposing the establishment of a high voltage power transmission line across 20 miles in Franklin County. Other counties in the River Valley have also rejected the power line proposal including Johnson, Pope and Crawford counties.
Plains and Eastern Clean Line Energy Partners LL, a for-profit private company, wants to build a direct current (HVDC) power line originating in the panhandle of Oklahoma that would transmit wind generated electrical power across the state of Arkansas to connect with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) users in Memphis, Tennessee and its neighbors in Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama.
Resolution 2015-2 states the power line would be located generally north of Interstate 40 in Franklin County and would require a 200 foot wide, clear-cut right of way with 200 foot tall lattice type towers. The Resolution further says, “if this power line is built it will be an enduring eyesore to Arkansas and Franklin County, affecting the natural beauty of this area and damaging property values with little positive affect.”
The resolution also said that while land owners whose property is used for the proposed power line would be paid including diminished value to their adjoining property, nearby property owners would not be paid, even though their property might also be devalued.
Before the vote was taken, Justices heard a presentation by Clean Line Project Consultant Field Wasson Jr, who said the county would get an initial infrastructure payment of $148,500 plus annual payments of $400,000 if the power lines goes through. Wasson also said landowners with a structure on their property would receive more than 100% of fee value on the easement area and would be compensated for impacts to crop yields or marketable timber and have use of the land, although no buildings could be put up taller than 10 feet on easements.
According to Wasson, DC power transmission is more cost effective for end users. Due to DC’s lower electricity losses and smaller footprint than comparable alternating current (AC) lines, DC is the most efficient and cost effective technology to move large amounts of electricity over long distances, he said.
Regarding safety concerns, Wasson said the proposed power lines have a direct current (HVDC- one way current) with a “smaller profile and magnetic field” than with high-powered alternating current (pulsing back and forth between polar magnets-HVAC).
Clean Line’s direct current transmission lines require only one line with a 200 ft. right-of-way, explained Wasson. This is about half the right-of-way required by Russellville’s nuclear power plant transmission lines that cross Interstate 40, with its 3 huge lattice structures and right-of-way of 400-500 feet.
In the early years of electricity, a debate raged between energy pioneers Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla because Tesla championed alternating current (AC), while Edison favored direct transmission (DC). Edison insisted AC current was too dangerous and to prove his point, publicly electrocuted an elephant using AC current. Ironically, most power lines in use today still use AC current but recent technology in converting AC to DC has allowed DC transmission of wind power to partner with the “green” alternative energy movement.
At the conclusion of Wasson’s speech, some residents stepped forward to express their concerns about the proposed project.
Becky Riddle said she was against the proposal because of potential health problems from exposure to the magnetic fields around power lines and the negative effects on tourism since the huge transmission towers would cut across the landscape.
Jennifer Keller, who did not speak, supplied Justices with copies of a recent press release from US Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton. On February 12th, they introduced legislation in the Senate to restore the right of states to approve or disapprove of electric transmission projects before the federal government exercises its power to take private property.
The Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act would require that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) receive the approval of both the governor and the public service commission of an affected state, before exercising the federal power of eminent domain to acquire property for Section 1222 transmission projects, states the press release. The APPROVAL Act has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for further review.
Toby Hogan, who passed out copies of the press release on behalf of Keller, said he had been to three meetings on the power-line project. “I never left these meetings thinking it would benefit my family or our state in any way, nor will it help tourism or beautify our state.”
He also distributed a representational image from Keller showing the huge size of the proposed transmission lines in relation to a house and regular electric lines.
“We must choose what we are willing to give up for the sake of progress,” Hogan concluded.
Following these presentations and comments from the audience, Justices voted 6/0 to adopt Resolution 2015-2 opposing the transmission line. Justices David Bowles and Freddy Ree were absent.
Although County Judge Rickey Bowman is not required to get the court’s permission before purchasing or leasing certain road equipment because funds are already included in the county’s road budget, he asked the Court to approve trading in a partially paid-off road grader and a tractor and brush hog to lease two new road graders and a tractor with side arm.
“I promised to be transparent in my dealings and provide you with full disclosure, so I’d like your approval before I make these transactions,” said Bowman. Justices responded by a unanimous show of hand in favor of the transactions.
Bowman said the Charleston EMS building is expected to be finished by mid-march and because of budget limitations, 20 feet had been cut off the building and a new generator will not be needed, since a previously removed hospital generator can be used in its place.
Two other Resolutions and eight Appropriation Ordinances passed unanimously with six of eight Justices present. Only two of the ordinances prompted discussion.
Appropriation Ordinance 20150-7 transferred $225,000 to fund expenses of the new EMS building in Charleston. This is approximately $105,000 more than was originally appropriated, as $394,000 of the $499,859 budget was appropriated in 2014.
Justice David Hewitt questioned the overage in light of the cutback in size of the building and in particular, about the high cost of the concrete work on the metal building, saying he had recently built a similar sized metal building with 6 “concrete at a cost of only $70,000.
Hewitt also suggested the Quorum Court be brought in on the whole process for any future buildings.
EMS Director, Randy Boren agreed saying, “I will be sure you get the bids in front of you.”
Also questioned, was Appropriation Ordinance 2015-12. This was a $2,161 amendment to a 2014 Roads/Fuel line to pay for carried-forward finance charges accrued since February 2013.
Former Judge Joe Powell was in the audience and said that as far as he knew, all bills had been paid and were up to date, and that he had not been aware that this finance charge had been accruing for the past two years. County Clerk DeAnna Schmalz agreed and said the county never had received a bill for this finance change during Powell’s term in office.
Bowman was sent a bill for $3,307 on carry-forward charges from Farmers Cooperative in early February, 2015 but said he had been able to negotiate the bill down to $2,161.
These passed unanimously with little or no comment.
Resolution 2015-01 declared a mission statement for family self-sufficiency.
Resolution 2015-3 designated Franklin County Judge Ricky Bowman as certifying officer for the Watalula and Pleasant View water projects.
Appropriation Ordinance 2015-5 provided $7,114 to fund part-time help for the Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
2015-6 appropriated $1,966 in unused book funds into the Ozark and Charleston Library budgets.
2015-8 appropriated $154,000 to the Charleston Courthouse roofing grant.
2015-9 appropriated $1,000 to Courthouse Maintenance to feed trustees while working on the Courthouse.
2015-10 appropriated $4,750 to the Health Department budget to replace their HVAC unit.
2015-11 appropriated $929,698 to amend line items adjustments in the 2014 budget.
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