The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), in Jan. 8 comments filed with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, recommended that the PUC select a route that would minimize adverse impacts to natural resources, such as Route F, for Sharyland Utilities’ proposed 138-kV transmission line to be built in Martin and Midland counties.
As noted in the TPWD comments, Sharyland is proposing to build the single circuit transmission line, which will connect the existing Tall City substation to the existing Glass substation in order to integrate new load and increase reliability of the electric system.
The TPWD also said that the project will be about 13 miles long and built primarily on concrete or steel monopoles in an approximately 100-feet-wide right of way (ROW).
Sharyland contracted with POWER Engineers to prepare an environmental assessment and alternative route analysis (EA), the TPWD said, adding that POWER completed an environmental analysis of 11 primary alternative routes.
POWER selected Alternative Route I as the alternative route that best balances routing criteria related to land use, aesthetics, ecology and cultural resources, the TPWD said. Alternative Route I is the second shortest line at 13.04 miles, and 90% of its length parallels existing linear features. The TPWD also noted that while six habitable structures are located within 300 feet of its centerline, the portion of Alternative Route I that affects those structures is proposed to be built as a second circuit to an already existing transmission line.
The TPWD added that Sharyland then undertook further evaluation to consider engineering, design and construction constraints, as well as costs. Sharyland selected Alternative Route D as the route that best addresses certain requirements.
The TPWD further noted that of the 11 routes evaluated in the EA, Route F appears to best minimize adverse impacts to natural resources, as it does not cross riparian woodlands or brushland, documented prairie dog colonies, playa lakes or potential wetlands. Also, Route F does not intersect streams or cross open water, and has the second shortest length across upland mesquite brushland.
The TWPD also recommended that if migratory bird species are found nesting on or adjacent to the project area, then they must be dealt with a manner consistent with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The TPWD recommended excluding vegetation clearing activities during the general bird nesting season, March through August, to avoid adverse impacts to that group. If clearing vegetation during that season is unavoidable, the TPWD recommended that Sharyland survey the area proposed for disturbance to ensure that no nests with eggs or young will be disturbed by operations.
The TPWD also said it recommends avoiding disturbance of the Texas horned lizard, its burrows, and colonies of its primary food source, the Harvester ant, during clearing and construction.
Furthermore, the TPWD recommended that Sharyland survey the selected route for prairie dog towns and avoid disturbance of prairie dog burrows during placement of the structures, ROW clearing and line maintenance.
Among other things, the TPWD also recommended that for disturbed sites within the monarch butterflies migration corridor, that revegetation efforts include planting or seeding native milkweed and nectar plants as funding and seed availability allow.
The TPWD further recommended that POWER and Sharyland prepare a mitigation plan to provide compensatory mitigation for those habitats where impacts from the transmission line cannot be avoided or minimized.