Arkansas regulators allow more time to debate new 345-kV transmission project

Rather than concluding a weeklong hearing related to Southwestern Electric Power Company’s (SWEPCO) proposed 345-kV Shipe Road to Kings River transmission project, an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) signaled that she might allow additional information to be presented in the proceeding (Docket No. 13-041-U).

On Aug. 30, after five days of testimony, ALJ Connie Griffin recessed the hearing as opposed to adjourning or concluding the proceeding, a SWEPCO spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 4.

Griffin indicated that she would issue orders providing further direction regarding additional briefs that she would accept from the parties, although no orders had been issued by press time Sept. 4.

The proceedings involved 19 entities including SWEPCO, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), 15 intervenors, and PSC staff. Some of the intervenors sought the opportunity to provide additional comments and testimony.

SWEPCO filed its application and a 156-page environmental impact statement on April 3 seeking a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need (CECPN) for the new power line and substation in Benton and Carroll Counties that would connect the cities of Centerton and Berryville in northern Arkansas. The two Arkansas counties, on the border with Missouri, have long been a high-growth area that is home to a number of business and industry facilities, including the headquarters for retail giant Walmart.

The application included a preferred route of approximately 48 miles, as well as five alternate routes. Since then, three of the alternates have been withdrawn from consideration, the spokesperson said.

The preferred route for the project originates at SWEPCO’s Shipe Road substation, which is currently under construction west of Centerton, and terminates at the proposed Kings River substation northwest of Berryville, Ark.

Line routing was chosen to avoid, to the fullest extent possible, private dwellings and/or commercial buildings and with the goal of minimizing the impact to current and potential future usage of the land, the company said, adding that existing easement corridors were examined and utilized where practical and consistent with reliable operating criteria.

Cost of the project is estimated at $116.7m and includes line construction, right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, and construction of the new substation.

The need for the proposed facilities was determined by two studies conducted by SPP. The Ozark Transmission Study and the 2007 SPP transmission expansion plan (STEP) for 2008-2017 showed that the project was needed to meet the additional transmission capacity demands of the growing North Arkansas/South Missouri area, Lanny Nickell, SPP’s vice president of engineering said in prefiled testimony. 

The addition of the 345-kV project will also strengthen the existing network of 161-kV lines and will support electric load served in the area, including SWEPCO, AECC and Entergy (NYSE:ETR), the SWEPCO spokesperson said.

SPP’s notification to construct, which it issued on Feb. 13, 2008, identified and mandated the new 345-kV line and transmission substation proposed in SWEPCO’s application, and requires the proposed facilities be in service by June 1, 2016.

As an SPP member, SWEPCO is responsible for building transmission projects in its footprint identified by SPP that are required for generation interconnections, transmission service needs and reliability projects.

SWEPCO is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).