Several landowners are upset at the idea of their land being taken to develop high-voltage power lines to benefit out-of-state power companies.
Organizers of the Southern Cross Project say it is designed to facilitate the development of additional Texas wind projects for transmission to markets in the Southeastern U.S. by creating the capability to move electricity bi-directionally between the Texas and the southeast regions.
“This route crosses many acres of precision leveled and irrigated farm land in Richland Parish and will disrupt irrigation and farming practices on those acres,” Barham said. “Because Richland Parish is so heavily dependent on agriculture, anything which adversely affects agriculture in Richland Parish hurts not only those directly involved in farming but everyone in the parish.”
The 400-mile project will cross Louisiana from the Texas border in DeSoto Parish to eastern border of Mississippi. On average, the height of the structures will be approximately 120 feet with spans between structures of approximately 1,000 to 1,200 feet. The typical easement width will be 180 feet.
Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2018 and the Southern Cross Project is planned to be placed in service in 2021.
“Our family’s commitment to conservation of wildlife habitat is reflected in the fact that we have devoted acreage to the Wetland Reserve Program and have two Conservation Reserve Program contracts,” Barham said. “This 57-59 route of the transmission line crosses one these CRP areas which will result in destruction trees and of wildlife habitat.”
Southern Cross Transmission LLC is a subsidiary of Pattern Energy Group of San Francisco. While Pattern Energy claims the project will be of economic benefit to the areas the power lines cross, may landowners point out access to the cheaper electricity will only be available in communities near the converter stations at each end of the route.
Property owners Dianne and Ben Brady say the detrimental effect the project would have on all citizens of Richland Parish and the state of Louisiana include:
• No economical renewable wind energy benefit. We will see no effect on the cost of electricity to Louisiana residents.
• No income benefit from sale of incremental wind energy with the increased income benefitting Texas.
• No creation of long term jobs. The jobs created will only be temporary ones from construction of the line.
One local farmer points out that Southern Cross would probably prefer putting the line across cleared fields as opposed to wooded areas because it would be less costly to install and maintain the line. This makes the Richland Parish route very desirable because of all the clearing and leveling our farmers have done in recent years costing them millions of dollars.
“We understand this placement of the line is under review by the Louisiana Public Service Commission and they will grant final approval for the route of this project. We are strongly urging the Commission to consider the negative impact and potential danger this proposed power transmission line would have on to our area and way of life and to consider the benefits of the proposed northern route where the power line appears to transgress a less populated area and would result in fewer disruptions to our vital agricultural economy,” the Bradys wrote in a letter to the Public Service Commission.
Other landowners are just as vehement.
“We have lived on Clear Lake, in the same home, for 39 years,” property owner Caroline Boggs said. “The proposed segment of the power transmission project, 57 – 59 in Richland Parish, goes across family owned property which is approximately 550 feet from our home. These 120 foot towers and the high voltage lines are only about 249 feet from our son’s planned home site and 400 feet from a cabin on our property which is occupied by guests much of the year. The line then expands across Clear Lake itself.”
Residents also point out that endangered species such as the White Pelican visit Clear Lake annually. They claim the mortality of these and other birds will be affected by these high voltage lines crossing the center of the lake. Another endangered species which visits the lake, albeit not annually, are Swans which are also on the endangered species list.
In addition the loss of the land used for the towers and easement will have a direct detrimental effect on the land owners, especially those who farm in the parish.
“Our property values will decrease and the property owner bears the burden with no benefit,” Boggs said. “We are also co-owners, with other family members, of agriculture land which these lines transgress. These towers and lines will mean additional cost to our lessee and smaller rental revenues to lessors. Agricultural lands will have a higher cost to the farmer, interfere with irrigation, aerial spraying, wind breaks and future use of the lands. As equipment comes in from jobs in other states, the risk of invasive species of plants being brought in greatly increases, adding untold cost to farmers and a true environmental problem.”
The companies currently working to create the Southern Cross Project are in the process of gaining permission to establish the route by negotiating with landowners and with the Louisiana Public Service Commission. They have said that using eminent domain to take control of the needed land is a last resort, but have not ruled it out.
Southern Cross was granted the power of eminent domain by the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee in 2014.
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