Texas agency’s environmental review supports EC Mornhinweg to Parkway preferred route

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), after reviewing the environmental assessment and alternative route analysis for the proposed EC Mornhinweg to Parkway 138-kV transmission line, has given its recommendation in support of the project developer’s preferred route alternative.

TPWD submitted its recommendations to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) on Oct. 23 for the application of Lower Colorado River Authority Transmission Services (LCRA) to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity for the proposed project in Comal and Guadalupe counties in Texas.

The new line would connect the new New Braunfels Utility E.C. Mornhinweg substation to the existing Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative Parkway substation.

The route analysis included 14 alternative routes comprised of combinations of 59 route segments.

TPWD said approximately 87% of LCRA’s preferred route uses existing transmission line rights of way (ROW); is the shortest route; has the fewest affected habitable structures within 300 feet of the centerline; does not cross any riparian habitats; does not parallel any streams; and has the least amount of length crossing woodlands. Furthermore, an additional 7% percent of the total [the total length of the line or the total of the 87%?] length parallels existing non-transmission line ROW or follows property lines. 

In its final route recommendation, TPWD said it preferred any of three southern route alternatives, including LCRA’s preferred route. The southern routes use existing ROW and avoid riparian and upland woodland habitat.

“Overall, routes comprised of segments in the northern half of the study area are longer, utilize no or little existing ROW, are located in closer proximity to high quality Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat, and either cross more creeks or are located adjacent to more ponds than segments in the southern half of the study area,” TPWD said.

TPWD also provided specific pre-construction recommendations for consideration of habitat and species of concern under state regulations.

“Regardless of which route is selected as the one to be constructed, TPWD recommends that a pre-construction survey be performed in areas along the selected route that would be subject to ground disturbance,” TPWD said. “Because rare plants, such as Bracted twistflower, are difficult to find and identify, if not in bloom, TPWD recommends that a survey be performed during the mid-April to late May flowering period.”

The PUCT on Oct. 25 referred LCRA’s application for the transmission line to the State Office of Administrative Hearings requesting a proposal for decision. The deadline for the PUCT to issue a decision is September 2013.