The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on May 10 filed with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas its recommendations regarding Rayburn Country Electric Cooperative’s (RCEC) environmental assessment and alternative route analysis (EA) for RCEC’s proposed Dent Road Expansion to Wieland Switch 138-kV Transmission Line Project in Hunt County, Texas.
As noted in the filing, the project involves the construction of 6.85 miles to 10.9 miles of new single-circuit, 138-kV transmission line between a southerly expansion of the Dent Road substation, located about 0.3 mile north of the Dent Road and Farm-to-Market Road (FM) 1570 (Jack Finney Boulevard) intersection, and the proposed Wieland switching station, located east of the County Road (CR) 3505 and CR 3508 intersection in Hunt County. The line would be built within a typical 100-foot-wide right of way (ROW) on concrete or steel monopole structures, the TPWD said.
The EA evaluated 20 primary alternative routes using 65 route segments, the TPWD said, noting that Burns & McDonnell identified “Route T” as the route that best satisfies certain criteria.
The TPWD said that RCEC identified “Route S” in its application as the route that best addresses certain requirements as it:
- Is the fourth shortest route – about 8.21 miles
- Impacts the third fewest habitable structures – 22 – within 300 feet of its centerline
- Is the fifth least expensive route – about $6.6m
- Parallels the third greatest length of existing transmission lines – about 1.16 miles
- Crosses the second shortest distance of combined woodland/brushland – about 1.56 miles
- Does not cross any mapped 100-year floodplains or parallel any mapped streams within 100 feet
- Crosses the second least number of mapped streams – eight
- Crosses the fifth least amount of high probability area for cultural resources – 5.81 miles
RCEC said that Route S is similar to Route T, with Route S containing “Segments 46 and 48” instead of “Segment 47.” The TPWD added that according to RCEC, Route S would be easier to build because it parallels property lines for a greater distance, which reduces bisecting properties, and should avoid tree clearing that would otherwise occur on Segment 47 of Route T.
The TPWD said that it selected “Route N” as the route having the least potential to impact fish and wildlife resources, with “Routes S and T” as second and third choices, respectively. The decision to recommend Route N was based primarily on these factors, as it:
- Has a moderate length and is the eighth shortest route – 8.51 miles
- Follows parallel to existing transmission line ROW and other existing compatible ROW – such as road, highways and railways – combined for about 23.6% of its length
- Does not cross any parks/recreational areas, and there are no additional parks or recreational areas within 1,000 feet of the ROW centerline of Route N
- Has the fifth greatest length across pastureland/rangeland – 6.47 miles
- Has the shortest length of ROW through upland woodland/brushland – 0.92 mile
- Has the shortest length of ROW through bottomland/riparian woodland/brushland – 0.18 mile
- Has the shortest length of ROW across potential wetlands as mapped by the USFWS NWI – 0.05 mile
- Has the least number of streams crossings – five
- Does not parallel – within 100 feet – any streams or rivers
- Has the second shortest length of ROW – 0.01 mile – across open water
- Does not cross any 100-year floodplains
Of the routes evaluated in the EA, Route N appears to best minimize adverse impacts to natural resources while also maintaining a moderate route length and following existing roads and utility ROW for about 23.6% of the route length, the TPWD said, adding, “TPWD recommends the PUC select a route that would minimize adverse impacts to natural resources, such as Route N.”
The TPWD also recommended that RCEC follow the American Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) suggested practices for reducing avian collisions and proactively include marking lines in the vicinity of open water, wetlands, and stream corridors where avian use is anticipated.
In addition, the TPWD recommended excluding vegetation clearing activities during the general bird nesting season, March 15 through Sept. 15, to avoid adverse impacts to nesting birds. If clearing vegetation during the migratory bird nesting season is unavoidable, the TPWD recommended that RCEC survey the area proposed for disturbance to ensure that no nests with eggs or young will be disturbed by operations.
On endangered species, the TPWD recommended RCEC survey the approved route to determine the potential of the site to support state-listed species or their habitat, including the timber rattlesnake. In addition, the TPWD recommended avoiding disturbance to state-listed species during clearing, construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed transmission line and ROW. Furthermore, the TPWD recommended that a biological monitor be present during construction to assist in detecting state-listed species in the ROW, especially in areas of suitable habitat, including riparian woodlands, bottomland forest, and upland forest.
Among other things, the TPWD recommended that impact avoidance measures for aquatic organisms, including all native fish and freshwater mussel species, regardless of state-listing status, be considered during project planning and construction activities.