Cities of Cedar Park, Leander dispute selected LCRA Leander-Round Rock transmission line route

Most of the structures on the transmission line will be 138-kilovolt monopoles, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Most of the structures on the transmission line will be 138-kilovolt monopoles, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Updated Aug. 14 at 5:03 p.m. to include Cedar Park's budget for legal and expert fees relating to the transmission line project in Fiscal Year 2017.

Published Aug. 10 at 1:42 p.m.

After the Public Utility Commission of Texas voted in favor of a Lower Colorado River Authority’s transmission line route from Leander to Round Rock in May, the cities of Leander and Cedar Park have since taken action to protest the decision.

PROJECT BACKGROUND


On May 18, Public Utility Commission of Texas members approved transmission line route LHO-1, which would travel down Hero Way and run along Ronald Reagan Boulevard before hitting RM 1431.

The 138-kilovolt lines would connect two existing power substations in Round Rock and Leander to two proposed substations in Cedar Park and Leander.

The commission's decision to approve the LHO-1 transmission line route differed from the recommendations of an administrative law judge, who recommended route COL-1, which would have traveled down Hero Way and turned to run along CR 175 before hitting RM 1431.

The cities of Cedar Park and Leander also favored the COL-1 route. Cedar Park spokesperson Jennie Huerta said the route would cost less and directly impact fewer property owners than LHO-1.

“Leander City Council was faced with a very hard decision of where to locate power lines,” Leander City Council member Ron Abruzzese said. “[The Council] used objective criteria to determine that COL-1 would negatively impact the fewest number of people.”

 

MOTIONS FOR REHEARING


After the commission’s route selection in May, the cities of Leander and Cedar Park—as well as Burleson Ranch and Langmanson, which could not be reached for comment—submitted motions for rehearing July 3, stating the commission wrongly selected the LHO-1 route, according to Texas utility commission documents.

Additionally, LCRA filed a motion for clarification June 29, according to commission documents.

The state utility commission issued an order July 28 that granted the LCRA TSC’s request to allow minor deviations to the approved route, as long as all affected landowners consent to the deviation and the changes do not result in a major increase of cost and time required for the project.

However, the commission denied the cities’ and Burleson Ranch and Langmanson’s motions for rehearing in its July 28 order.

Public Utilities Commission of Texas Communications Director Terry Hadley said the involved parties can file for a rehearing on the July 28 order for 25 days after it was issued. The city of Cedar Park plans to do so in mid-August, Huerta said.

Leander Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis said the city will not take any further steps to switch the route.

With the new commission-approved language allowing for minor deviations in the line’s route, Leander will work with the LCRA to determine alternative locations for substations, he said. Additionally, Yantis said the city and LCRA will decide if the transmission line can be moved to Ronald Reagan’s median instead of along its east side.

CITIZEN CONCERNS


Leander City Council members authorized $5,000 in legal fees related to the LCRA’s proposed transmission line at their meeting Aug. 3.

In April, Leander approved $230,000 for legal and expert fees for the project during Fiscal Year 2017, but further funding was needed after legal work took place in July for the rehearing request, according to the meeting agenda packet.

Cedar Park approved $273,314.03 for expert and attorney fees for the transmission line project in Fiscal Year 2017, Cedar Park spokesperson Mauro Lopez said.

“These three cities have spent an enormous amount of tax payer money fighting against us, the tax payers, and fighting this decision,” said Leander resident Tim Thornton. “Now it is time for the cities to stand-down and stop spending tax payer's money to fight tax payers.”

In May 2016, landowners along CR 175 organized to oppose route COL-1, lawyer Brad Bayliff said. Bayliff was hired by the group of individuals, collectively called the Land and Home Owners of CR 175, to represent their interests.

“There are hundreds of taxpayers in our subdivision and who are parties to the LHO-1 routing case who have spent thousands of dollars to protect our homes, our property values, our families from the ill effects of this transmission line,” Leander resident Phyllis Hanvey said. “We have been awarded the decision by the Public Utility Commission twice now.”

Leander resident Skyler Williams said he thought City Council members were not well-informed about different opinions concerning the transmission line routes.

“In hindsight, the city could have initiated a process to receive public input prior to our early decisions on routes back in 2016,” Abruzzese said. “I think both residents and council will learn from this process moving forward.”
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