The LCRA Transmission Services Corp. is encouraging residents in west Round Rock and east Leander to participate in the process of selecting transmission line routes that some say could be detrimental to local home values, parks and wildlife.
The LCRA TSC is looking to build transmission lines in the area to connect two power substations, which will be built in the future, to existing stations in Round Rock and Leander. Transmission lines could also be located in Cedar Park, Georgetown or unincorporated territory depending on where the LCRA TSC sites the lines.
Lance Wenmohs, LCRA manager of Siting and Certification, said the organization has heard concerns from residents about the lines’ potential effects.
“These things folks are concerned about LCRA [TSC] is also concerned about,” Wenmohs said. “We are very early in this process. We have identified a large number of preliminary alternative locations.”
Williamson County Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman said the consensus she has heard from constituents and other elected officials is everyone understands the need for new transmission lines and substations, but they want them to be as far as possible from populated areas and parks and trails.
“We want reliable electricity,” Birkman said. “There’s going to be a need for more transmission lines—that’s not the question. The question is how do we do it?”
Wenmohs said depending on the feedback LCRA TSC gets from the public, some potential line segments might be removed from consideration, or the route could shift to address those concerns. He said new potential routes could also be added later.
Ryan Granger, a Stone Canyon neighborhood resident, said he is troubled by the potential for a segment called N3 in LCRA TSC documents, which he said runs along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail and several areas that are known to contain protected species.
“The transmission towers are huge, 80-feet-tall structures, and there is 60-100 feet on either side [of the towers] where there’s no vegetation,” he said. “It would basically be clear cutting this entire creek. I think there’s a lot of interest and concern in our community about the destruction of the habitat.”
Wenmohs said the LCRA TSC will address environmental factors in the potential routes in the coming months, as well as the impact the lines will have on property values and park aesthetics.
Though the LCRA TSC is currently analyzing the potential routes, the Public Utility Commission has the final say on where the lines will be built.
Wenmohs said the LCRA TSC will make its recommendations to the PUC in spring 2016. Once the LCRA TSC recommendation is sent landowners will be notified and can participate in the process.
“There’s a period of time called an intervention period where landowners can file to become interveners,” he said. “They submit a statement to the PUC letting them know they want to be a participant in the process.”
The PUC then assigns the case docket to the State Office of Administrative Hearings to conduct a formal hearing in which the intervener can testify and file statements for an administrative law judge to consider.
Ultimately the administrative law judge will write a proposal for decision and give it to the PUC. The PUC will review the judge’s proposal, and the PUC can accept, modify or reject the judge’s decision.
Wenmohs said he expects the lines to be constructed in 2019.
Birkman said the best thing residents can do is let the LCRA TSC know how they feel.
“Hang in there and know this will be a long process,” she said.