Proposed order calls for approval of proposed 138-kV project in Texas

A Jan. 30 proposed order calls for the Public Utility Commission of Texas to approve an application filed by Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) to amend a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) in order to build, own, and operate a single-circuit, 138-kV transmission line from PEC’s existing Highway 32 substation to its existing Wimberley substation in Hays County.

A stipulation (agreement) was executed that resolves all of the issues among the parties to the proceeding and, consistent with the agreement, the application is approved, the proposed order noted.

As noted in a Jan. 30 memo – accompanying the proposed order – from Irene Montelongo, director, Docket Management, to the commission, the proceeding was referred in July 2017 to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The docket was subsequently returned to the commission and the Docket Management Section prepared the proposed order, which the commission will consider at an open meeting to be held on March 15 at the commission’s offices in Austin, Texas.

Parties are to file corrections or exceptions to the proposed order by March 7, Montelongo added.

According to the proposed order, PEC in June 2017 filed its application to amend its CCN to allow a rebuild and upgrade to an existing four-mile, 69-kV radial transmission line connecting the Highway 32 substation to the Wimberley substation (Highway 32-Wimberley 69-kV Transmission Line).

The project is needed to provide 138-kV transmission service to support the growing loads in Wimberley, provide necessary capacity for backup to feeders at adjacent substations, and eliminate the 138-69-kV autotransformer as a single point of failure risking long-term outages, the proposed order noted.

The Wimberley area has experienced significant growth over the last several years and is projected to experience a 1.9% annual growth rate over the next 10 years, the proposed order noted, adding that PEC’s existing facilities are insufficient to meet the area’s anticipated future growth.

The project would begin at the Highway 32 substation, located north of the intersection of Farm-to-Market (FM) road 32 and FM 12, and extend to the Wimberley substation, located west of FM 2325 in Wimberley.

The proposed order added that the area traversed by the line is in the Edwards Plateau and the Balconian biotic provinces of Texas. The southern half of the project crosses rural hill country land used for pasture or rangeland, while the northern half crosses the suburban and residential area south of Wimberley, including the Blanco River.

As TransmissionHub reported, PEC, in a proposed order that it filed with the commission last month, noted that it and other parties on Dec. 7, 2017, filed the stipulation with the commission that resolves all of the issues in the proceeding.

The parties signing the stipulation (referred to as the signatories) agree that the commission should approve the project on the “stipulation route,” which is about 3.9 miles long and has an estimated cost of $6.6m, PEC said.

According to the stipulation, the signatories include PEC, PUC staff, the City of Wimberley, Turner Generational, LLC, and the 1492 Alliance.

According to the proposed order filed on Jan. 30, the signatories agree that the commission should approve the project on the “Agreed Route,” which “is a viable, feasible, and reasonable route considering the numerous environmental, engineering, and land use constraints in the project area.”

While there are no parks or recreational areas crossed by the Agreed Route, there are three parks or recreational areas located within 1,000 feet of the centerline of the Agreed Route, the proposed order said, adding that the project is not expected to have a significant impact on parks or recreational areas.

The Agreed Route does not cross any known cultural resource sites. The proposed order added that there is one archaeological site located within 1,000 feet of the centerline of the Agreed Route. Also, one National Register of Historic Places site is located within 1,000 feet of the centerline of the Agreed Route. The proposed order added that the project is not expected to have a significant impact on historical or archaeological resources.

While the Agreed Route would generally create a visual feature across the landscape, it would not be a feature that is inconsistent with existing features in the area, the proposed order said, adding that using the Agreed Route, the project is primarily being built within the exact same corridor as the existing 69-kV transmission line that is being rebuilt and upgraded. Furthermore, utility and other linear corridors, including other existing transmission and distribution lines, are common throughout the area, the proposed order said.

The proposed project is not anticipated to have a significant impact on geological features or resources of the area, the proposed order said. PEC would use reasonable efforts to mitigate the environmental impacts of stream crossings by, for instance, crossing the streams at right angles where feasible to minimize clearing.

The proposed order also noted that the Agreed Route crosses potential habitat of federally endangered or threatened species, such as the golden-cheeked warbler. Other federally listed species, such as the piping plover, are not anticipated to occur, except as rare, non-breeding migrants. The proposed order added that before construction, PEC would conduct a natural resources assessment to consider threatened and endangered wildlife and plant species along the approved route.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommends, for instance, the judicious use and placement of sediment control fence to exclude wildlife from the construction area, the proposed order said.

Among other things, the proposed order said that in the event that PEC or its contractors encounter any archaeological artifacts or other cultural resources during construction of the line, then PEC is to cease work immediately in the vicinity of the resource and report the discovery to the Texas Historical Commission.

Also, PEC is to use best management practices to minimize the potential impact to migratory birds and threatened or endangered species. The proposed order added that PEC is to also cooperate with directly affected landowners to implement minor deviations in the approved route to minimize the project’s impact.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3054 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.