Residents around Chalk Mountain have formed a group and hired a lawyer to fight Lone Star Transmission LLC’s planned route for high-voltage transmission lines to connect wind generation farms in West Texas to electricity consumers throughout the state.
Lone Star’s preferred and alternate routes both would cut through some of Somervell County’s most scenic property, including areas that are nesting and breeding grounds for two endangered bird species, the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.
The group is called SAVE, short for Somervell Advocates for Values and the Environment, LLC. A meeting on May 8 at the home of Jeannie Lane drew about 40 people. About 18 so far have filed paperwork to become formal intervenors in Lone Star’s proposed application filed with the Texas Public Utility Commission to build 311 miles of a new 345-kilovolt double-circuit transmission.
A property owner who prefers to remain anonymous has hired an Austin-based attorney, David F. Brown of K&L Gates LLP, to represent SAVE as its counsel. Brown is the immediate past chair of the Public Utility Section of the State Bar of Texas and has successfully prosecuted landowners’ claims in previous electric transmission line cases.
Private landowners also hired wildlife biologists Randy Moss and Linda Laack of Lockhart to document the endangered species in the area.
The PUC has ordered utilities, including Lone Star, to build more than 2,300 miles of new transmission lines to connect wind-rich areas of West Texas to other areas. In addition to Somervell County, the proposed routes would cross the following counties: Scurry, Fisher, Jones, Mitchell, Taylor, Callahan, Shackelford, Stephens, Eastland, Palo Pinto, Erath, Comanche, Johnson, Bosque, Hill and Navarro.
Three substations also would be constructed – one in Shackelford County, the Sam Switch station in Hill County and a substation in Navarro County.
The PUC estimated the project’s cost at $767.8 million.
Lengthy public notices were published in both Glen Rose newspapers and others throughout the affected counties. Notifications also were mailed to landowners.
At first the preferred route was called KK2 and went on the east side of Chalk Mountain. Lane and other property owners wrote letters opposing the KK2 route. Then the preferred route was changed to the so-called ST route, which runs on the western side of Chalk Mountain near the Erath County line.
However, the revised preferred route wasn’t revealed until May 24, giving affected landowners on the ST route less than a month to become an intervenor.
Chalk Mountain residents say they feel under siege. They already have been fighting the rock-crushing permit application filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by Slick Machines.
Several landowners stand to be affected by both operations – ironic, they say, considering that they bought land or homes in the Chalk Mountain area for its pristine natural environment.
Landowners around Chalk Mountain question why Lone Star would choose a route that cuts across rugged terrain.
“Why in the world would you destroy virgin territory when you have territory that’s already been destroyed?” asked Darrell Best, a Chalk Mountain resident.
Best helped found the Chalk Mountain Foundation to fight Slick Machines' rock-crushing permit application.
He and other residents also don’t understand why the habitat of two endangered species is in peril on two different projects and government entities don’t seem to care.
“Why do we have endangered species laws if they’re not enforced?” Best asked.
Although the application includes a preferred route, “any of the proposed routes may be selected by the commission,” the PUC said.
Maps and detailed descriptions of the proposed preferred and alternate routes are available for viewing at the Somervell County Library, by visiting www.lonestar-transmission.com or by calling a toll-free number, 877-278-8097.