Chalk Mountain residents have one less worry — high-voltage transmission lines won’t be obscuring their views and affecting their property values.
The Texas Public Utility Commission last week agreed with an administrative law judge that the lines will cut through a segment of rural Bosque County near Clifton. About 100 people packed the hearing room.
The judge had presided over hearings on various possible routes for the so-called Competitive Renewable Energy Zones. The CREZ projects call for building 345-kilovolt transmission lines at a cost of nearly $5 billion.
The administrative law judge did not agree with staff engineers on the most suitable route for carrying high voltage transmissions of electricity from windfarms in West Texas to major markets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond.
Somervell County Commissioners earlier this year unanimously approved a resolution opposing Lone Star Transmission LLC's proposed routes for transmission lines that would have cut across Chalk Mountain and possibly interfere with the county's emergency services communications tower.
Lone Star's early preferred route included a link called KK1 in Erath County that connected with Link ST in Erath and Somervell counties. It also has designated alternative routes — Links KK2, KK3, IJ1, IJ2, TU, NN1 or NN3 — passing in part or entirely in Somervell County. The ST and KK2 routes were the ones that would have traversed Chalk Mountain.
The Public Utility Regulatory Act required the PUC to consider factors such as community values, recreational and park areas, historical and aesthetic values and environmental integrity when approving such an application.
For county commissioners, though, and County Judge Walter Maynard, who also is the county's emergency management director, their greatest concern was the potential to affect the county's sole communications tower on Chalk Mountain. One of the proposed routes would pass within 2,000 feet of it.
The proposed 345-kilowatt volt transmission lines, if built on either the preferred or some of the alternative routes, "could interfere with the proper functioning of the sole emergency services communications system in Somervell County, because of the transmission line's potential proximity to the Somervell County emergency communications tower, thereby endangering Somervell County residents and interrupting vital communications with the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Station," the resolution warned.
The commissioners urged the PUC to reject the preferred route or any of the alternative routes through Somervell County in favor of "other, more appropriate routes" to the south.
Chalk Mountain residents also protested the early preferred routes, saying they would obscure views, lower property values and disturb wildlife. Two bird species on the Endangered Species List, the Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-Capped Vireo, have documented habitat in the area of the proposed routes.
Residents demonstrated their commitment to protecting the land, water and wildlife through individual and coordinated conservation and ecological improvement efforts, including those through the Chalk Mountain Wildlife Management Association and the Chalk Mountain Foundation, which has rallied property owners to protest against Slick Machines' proposed rock-crushing operation.
Eco-tourism is and has been an "integral" part of the county's tourist economy, as has the exploration of historical and archaeological sites, specifically in areas impacted by the location of Links ST and KK2.
Many of the properties on or adjacent to the proposed or alternative routes are "valued both by landowners and visitors for their beauty and far-reaching views, rather their economic value as farm or ranch acreage, and the location of transmission lines on or in sight of these properties will gravely undermine the scenic beauty of the land," the resolution said.
The statement went on to sayd that the proposed transmission lines "are not consistent with the cultural, historical or architectural heritage" of the county or Chalk Mountain and are "inconsistent with the future economic development plans and land-use and conservation activities and values of many of our citizens."