The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, in a Sept. 15 order, approved LCRA Transmission Services Corporation’s application to build a new 345-kV transmission line in Guadalupe County, capable of supporting a new circuit from the Zorn substation to the Marion substation, and capable of supporting a second circuit to be installed in the future on the new double circuit single pole structures.
The project will follow route 10M, which consists of segments S2, I, M, T, V, Y, P1, T1 and W1, and has a total cost estimate of about $46.8m – the least costly route under consideration, the PUC said.
As TransmissionHub reported, administrative law judges (ALJs), in a proposal for decision filed with the PUC, concluded that among the routes contained in an application by LCRA for the proposed line, “Route 10M” is preferred, taking into account all of the PUC’s routing criteria.
As noted in the Sept. 15 order, LCRA in March filed its application to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) in order to build, own and operate the new 345-kV transmission line in Guadalupe County, as well as a future circuit on portions of the line requiring new structures.
ERCOT designated the project to be critical to the reliability of the ERCOT system. The PUC also said that the project is needed to address the short- and long-term reliability of the ERCOT regional system in and along the Interstate-35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin, and to support the north to south bulk electric system transfers across 138-kV and 345-kV transmission lines within that corridor. According to ERCOT, an additional north-to-south 345-kV circuit is needed by 2019 to prevent several violations of ERCOT’s and NERC’s planning criteria within the corridor, including overloading of existing circuits.
The PUC added that the project will use the previously certificated open 345-kV position on existing structures between the Zorn substation and the vicinity of the existing LCRA Clear Springs substation, and then continue on new double-circuit single pole structures from the vicinity of the Clear Springs substation to the Marion substation.
LCRA retained POWER Engineers to prepare an environmental assessment and routing study for the project, the PUC said.
No significant impact to existing land use, socioeconomic, geological, hydrological or wetland resources and no adverse effects to historical or archaeological resources are anticipated as a result of construction of any of the filed or proposed routes, including route 10M, the PUC said.
All of the routes under consideration minimize the number of habitable structures located in close proximity to the routes, given the density of development and population in the study area, the PUC said, adding that 35 habitable structures are located within 500 feet of the centerline of route 10M, which is the fewest number of habitable structures within 500 feet of the centerline of any route under consideration.
Noting that one park or recreational area – the Bandit Golf Club – is located within 1,000 feet of the centerline of route 10M, the PUC said that no route for the project will significantly impact the use or enjoyment of any park or recreational facility. The PUC also said that no significant impacts to historical or archaeological resources are anticipated as the result of construction of any of the routes proposed for the project.
The PUC said that route 10M crosses 4.7 miles of area with high archaeological site potential, and that in the event that LCRA or its contractors encounter any artifacts or other cultural resources during project construction, all work will cease immediately in the vicinity of the resources and LCRA will report the discovery to the Texas Historical Commission.
The PUC further noted that no significant impacts to wetland resources, ecological resources, endangered and threatened species, or land use are anticipated as a result of project construction. Before construction, LCRA will conduct a natural resources assessment to consider threatened and endangered wildlife and plant species along the approved route, the PUC said.
Among other things, the PUC said that LCRA is to use best management practices to minimize the potential impact to migratory birds and threatened or endangered species. Also, LCRA is to minimize the amount of flora and fauna disturbed during construction of the proposed project, except to the extent necessary to establish appropriate right of way (ROW) clearance for the line.