The Lower Colorado River Authority Transmission Services Corp., which is a nonprofit corporation that is responsible for electric service projects in Texas, submitted 31 possible routes for a proposed 138-kilovolt line to the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on April 28. Of the 31 routes, the LCRA TSC identified one that runs along FM 1431 and Sam Bass Road as the route that “best addresses” the PUC’s criteria for placing the line.
The LCRA TSC is looking to build the line to connect two existing power substations—one in Round Rock and one in Leander—to two proposed substations—one in Cedar Park and one in Leander. LCRA TSC officials have stated the line is needed to address the growing demand for electricity in the area.
The route the LCRA TSC states best addresses the PUC’s siting criteria is identified as Route 31 in LCRA TSC documents. Route 31 starts at the Round Rock substation off Sam Bass and follows major arterials such as FM 1431 and Sam Bass. The LCRA TSC said in a statement that Route 31 was selected as the one that best addresses the PUC’s criteria because it uses an existing transmission line corridor and follows existing rights of way for a “significant portion” of its length. The LCRA TSC states Route 31 would minimize the number of newly affected homes within proximity to the project and avoid the environmentally sensitive area near Brushy Creek.
Cities’ and county input
The cities of Cedar Park, Leander and Round Rock previously passed resolutions recommending the line be placed on a route along FM 1431, just as Route 31 is. Cedar Park and Leander also recommended an alternative route along Arterial H.
Several residents who live in neighborhoods that Route 31 would run adjacent to spoke against the proposed route during a Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting May 10.
The county voted to intervene regarding the possible lines on May 10. On May 12, the city of Cedar Park also voted to intervene. According to city documents, the city must file as an intervenor to participate in the process used by the PUC.
“We want to protect the [Brushy Creek] trail, current and future economic corridors, and we wanted to take into consideration where people live, because these things can have a very bad effect on property values,” Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell said.
The segment running parallel to Brushy Creek Road, identified in LCRA TSC documents as the N3 segment, was included in the list of 31 routes the LCRA sent to the PUC. The segment running parallel to Arterial H was also included in a line route as were segments running north toward Georgetown, which several Round Rock residents identified as their preferred route at a March 10 meeting.
Lance Wenmohs, manager of siting and certification for the LCRA, said the river authority aimed to give the PUC many route options.
Wenmohs said though the LCRA TSC submitted 31 line routes, in the administrative proceeding the public officials or private landowners who become intervenors could submit new alternative routes that the PUC could ultimately end up picking.
Wenmohs said interested parties, such as potentially affected homeowners or landowners, have 45 days from April 28—or until June 13—to become intervenors with the PUC. As part of the notification process required by the PUC, LCRA TSC has mailed letters to landowners whose land is crossed by a possible route or who own property located within at least 300 feet of a possible route, according to an LCRA TSC statement. The notices include information about how property owners can participate in the proceeding, according to the statement.
Wenmohs said once there are intervenors the PUC will refer the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Wenmohs said an administrative law judge will be assigned the case, and in about six months from April 28 a hearing will be held.
Wenmohs said the LCRA TSC as well as the intervenors will file written testimony as well as participate in discovery, which involves the two parties asking each other for information. He said the administrative law judge will write a proposal for decision, or PFD, after the hearing is held. The PFD is the judge’s recommendation after hearing the evidence and includes his or her opinion on if the project should move forward and, if so, which route should be built. Wenmohs said the PFD is sent to the PUC commissioners, and they will hold multiple open meetings before making the final decision on where the lines will be built.
Wenmohs said the case process takes about one year from the LCRA TSC’s filing.
“We would hope to have a decision on the application one year from [April 28],” Wenmohs said.
Additional reporting by Caitlin Perrone