The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), in a Sept. 14 filing submitted to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, offered various recommendations regarding the City of Garland’s proposed Dent Road to Shelby 138-kV Transmission Line Project, including that the commission select a route that would minimize adverse impacts to natural resources, such as “Route L.”
As noted in the filing, the City of Garland d/b/a Garland Power and Light (GPL) retained Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc., to prepare an environmental assessment and alternative route analysis (EA) to support the application for a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build the new electric transmission line.
The project involves the construction of 4.2 miles to eight miles of new single-circuit, 138-kV transmission line between the proposed Dent Road substation expansion, located about 1,500 feet north of the Dent Road and Farm-to-Market Road (FM) 1570 (Jack Finney Boulevard) intersection, and the existing Shelby substation, located southeast of the Shelby Avenue and Creek Crossing Drive intersection in Hunt County, Texas. The TPWD added that the line would be built within a typical 120-foot-wide right of way (ROW) on double-circuit capable steel and/or concrete single-pole structures.
The EA evaluated 17 primary alternative routes using 61 route lines that were identified following a preliminary alternative route analysis and public involvement program, the TPWD said. From an environmental and land use perspective, Burns & McDonnell recommended “Route J” as the route that best satisfies certain criteria based primarily on such advantages as that the route has the fewest habitable structures (six) within 300 feet of its centerline, the TPWD said. GPL indicated in its CCN application that Route J provides the best balance of routing characteristics and best addresses certain requirements, the TPWD said.
The TPWD noted that based on a review of the natural resources information presented in the EA, project maps, and publicly available Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, the TPWD determined that Route J would not be the best alternative route to minimize impacts to natural resources. The EA identifies other alternative routes with less length across upland woodlands, bottomland/riparian woodlands and floodplains, routes with fewer stream crossings, and routes that do not parallel any streams within 100 feet.
The TPWD added that Route L, for instance:
- Is the second shortest route – 22,629 feet
- Follows parallel to existing transmission line ROW and other existing compatible ROW combined for about 36% of its length – excluding apparent property boundaries
- Crosses cropland and pastureland/rangeland combined for about 75% of its length, thus avoiding the need to clear woodland habitats
- Has the fourth shortest length of ROW through upland woodland/brushland – 2,948 feet
- Along with “Route I,” has the least number of streams crossings – six
- Does not parallel – within 100 feet – any streams or rivers
“Of the routes evaluated in the EA, Route L appears to best minimize adverse impacts to natural resources while also maintaining a shorter route length and following existing roads and utility ROW for approximately 36 percent of the route length,” the TPWD said.
Among other things, the TPWD also recommended that GPL implement 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.
Also, the TPWD recommended implementing conservation measures presented in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Nationwide Standard Conservation Measures for reducing impacts to birds and their habitats, which reiterates TPWD’s scoping letter recommendations to avoid vegetation clearing during the bird nesting season, to survey for nests if clearing is done during the nesting season, and to implement lighting best management practices.
Discussing endangered species, the TPWD said that it recommends that GPL survey the approved route to determine the potential of the ROW to support state-listed species or their habitat, including the timber rattlesnake. Surveying the route prior to construction would aid in protecting state-listed species from potential impacts, the TPWD said.
Among other things, the TPWD said that to avoid or minimize potential adverse impacts to state-listed aquatic species, the TPWD recommends implementing additional stream protection measures, including building stream crossings that do not obstruct flow.