The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, in a Sept. 16 final order, approved Sharyland Utilities’ application for approval to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for the proposed Sale Ranch to Natural Dam 138-kV transmission line, consistent with a stipulation.
As TransmissionHub reported, Sharyland last December filed the application to allow it to build and operate the line, which would be built primarily on monopole structures that would connect the existing Sale Ranch substation in Martin County, located about 1.06 mile south of the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road (FM) 829 and FM 2900, to the existing Natural Dam substation in Howard County, located about 1.64 mile north of the intersection of South FM 818 and Interstate Highway 20.
Sharyland filed the stipulation in May, and all of the signatories to the stipulation – including Sharyland and H.H. Wilkinson’s Cross F Ranch, LLC – support the stipulation, with the remaining party, Wind Energy Transmission Texas, not opposing the stipulation.
As noted in the PUC’s order, the project is needed to accommodate significant load growth, allow Sharyland to more effectively serve existing customers in the vicinity of the Natural Dam substation, and to increase system reliability. Sharyland has seen significant load growth in the Stanton service area over the past several years, primarily driven by oil and gas exploration activities, the PUC said. While lower oil prices may influence growth rates from year to year, Sharyland anticipates, based upon discussions with large customers in the Stanton area, that load will continue to have significant overall growth over the next five years, the PUC said.
Discussing the project’s routing, the PUC said that Sharyland retained POWER Engineers to prepare an environmental assessment and alternative route analysis for the project. While POWER identified “route A” as the route that best addresses certain environmental criteria, Sharyland identified “route C” as the route that best addresses certain criteria.
The PUC added that among the nine alternative routes considered, route C slightly modified – referred to as the settlement route – is the best alternative weighing certain factors. The settlement route is 16.98 miles long, has an estimated cost of about $17.5m, and consists of these links: 02, 05, 06, 12, 13, 18M, 17B, and 19, the PUC said.
The settlement route crosses 3.68 miles of cropland, and 8.19 miles of pasture and rangeland – including conservation reserve program land. The PUC also said that no significant adverse impacts to parks and recreation areas are expected as a result of the construction of the project along the settlement route.
In addition, the settlement route crosses 5.76 miles of area with high archaeological site potential, the PUC said, noting that no significant adverse impacts to historical or archaeological sites are expected as a result of the construction of the project along the settlement route.
No significant impacts to wetland resources, ecological resources, endangered and threatened species, or land use are anticipated as a result of project construction, the PUC said.
Among other things, the PUC said that in the event that Sharyland or its contractors encounter any archaeological artifacts or other cultural resources during project construction, work is to cease immediately in the vicinity of the resource and the discovery is to be reported to the Texas Historical Commission.
Also, Sharyland is to minimize the amount of flora and fauna disturbed during construction of the line, except to the extent necessary to establish appropriate right of way clearance for the line.
The PUC further noted that Sharyland is to use best management practices to minimize the potential impact to migratory birds and threatened or endangered species.
Sharyland is to also update the reporting of the project on its monthly construction progress reports prior to the start of construction to reflect final estimated cost and schedule, the PUC said.