The Public Utility Commission of Texas, in an order dated March 8, adopted, with exceptions, the Jan. 31 State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) administrative law judge’s (ALJ) proposal for decision that recommended that the commission grant Rayburn Country Electric Cooperative’s application to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build a new single-circuit, 138-kV transmission line in Hunt County, Texas.
As noted in the order, Rayburn filed its application in March 2017 regarding its proposed Dent Road Expansion to Wieland Switch 138-kV Transmission Line Project, which will connect expanded portions of the existing Dent Road substation owned by Greenville Electric Utility System (GEUS) to the proposed tap point switch and meter station – planned to be named the Wieland switching station – located along Rayburn’s existing Blackland to Wieland 138-kV transmission line.
Regarding the need for the project, the order noted that load growth has been averaging 1% to 2% per year in the Greenville, Texas, area, and is expected to continue growing at that rate over the next several years. The project is one of five components of the Greenville Area Project evaluated and accepted by ERCOT to address system-reliability issues in the Greenville area, the order said, adding that the project is needed to ensure system reliability in that area.
Rayburn’s consultant, Burns & McDonnell, determined in an environmental assessment and alternative route analysis (EA) that “route T” best satisfies the applicable routing criteria, while Rayburn identified “route S” as the best route, the order said, adding that commission staff urges that route T is the better alternative.
While route T is the third least expensive route with an estimated cost of $6.3m, route S is the fifth least expensive route with an estimated cost of $6.6m. The order added that the switching station is estimated to cost $3.7m, and that cost is the same for all proposed routes.
Route T is the third-shortest route with a total length of 7.91 miles, while route S is the fourth-shortest route with a total length of 8.19 miles.
Route T has the fewest number of habitable structures within 300 feet of the right of way (ROW) centerline – 16 – while route S has the third-fewest number, with 22 structures, the order said. Routes S and T do not cross any parks and recreational areas, nor do any come within 1,000 feet of the ROW centerline of those routes. The order added that both routes S and T have one recorded cultural resource site within 1,000 feet of the ROW centerline.
All of the routes would have a similar aesthetic impact, the order added, noting that as between routes S and T, the evidence did not establish any major distinctions between their potential impacts on historical, archaeological, or cultural resources.
Furthermore, no federally determined critical habitat has been designated in the study area for endangered or threatened species, so the project will not impact critical habitat, the order said.
Noting that some federally protected avian species, including the whooping crane, may migrate through the study area, the order said that Rayburn has stated that it will comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Endangered Species Act, and the commission’s ordering language.
No significant impacts to wetland resources, ecological resources, endangered and threatened species, or land use are anticipated as a result of the project’s construction. The order also noted that while route S crosses the second-least number of mapped streams – 8 – route T crosses the third-least number – 10. Routes S and T have nearly identical impacts on the environment, and there are no significant advantages or disadvantages in terms of the environmental integrity factor for those routes, the order said.
The commission ordered that the approved route for the project is route S.
Among other things, the order said that in the event that Rayburn 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, the order noted that Rayburn is to cooperate with directly affected landowners to implement minor deviations in the approved route to minimize the impact of the transmission line.