Texas regulators should select route like Alternative Route 5 for 345-kV project, TPWD says

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on Nov. 9 recommended that the Public Utility Commission of Texas select a route for the proposed Ogallala to Abernathy 345-kV Transmission Line the that would minimize adverse impacts to natural resources, such as Alternative Route 5.

As TransmissionHub reported, Sharyland Utilities, L.P., and the City of Lubbock, acting by and through Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L), on Sept. 6 filed with the commission a joint application for a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for the proposed line in Castro, Hale, and Swisher counties in Texas (Docket No. 48625).

As noted in the Nov. 9 TPWD filing, the new line would connect the existing Ogallala station located southeast of the city of Nazareth in Castro County, to the existing Abernathy station, located just north of Abernathy in Hale County. The proposed line would be about 55 miles to 65 miles in length, with an average right of way (ROW) width of 175 feet.

As TransmissionHub reported, the joint applicants selected Alternative Route 4 as the route that they believe best addresses certain requirements.

As noted in the joint application, the 57.85-mile Alternative Route 4 has an estimated total cost of $96.2m – that is, about $87.9m for the “T-Line,” about $1.9m for the Ogallala station, and about $6.4m for the Abernathy station.

Alternative Route 4 is tied with four other proposed routes as the fifth shortest route; is the sixth least expensive route; has the third fewest habitable structures (13) within 500 feet of its centerline; as well as parallels existing transmission line ROW, other existing compatible ROW, and apparent property lines for about 93% of its total length, having the greatest length (47.3 miles) of all the routes parallel to other existing compatible ROW.

Among other things, the application also noted that Alternative Route 4 crosses no parks, recreational areas, upland or bottomland, and/or riparian woodlands, or open water. In addition, that route has no recorded historic, prehistoric, National Register-listed or determined-eligible sites, or cemeteries within 1,000 feet of its centerline, the application noted.

The TPWD, in its filing, said that of the 24 routes evaluated in the environmental assessment and alternative route analysis prepared by POWER Engineers, Alternative Route 5 appears to best minimize adverse impacts to natural resources. Alternative Route 5:
* Is tied with four other routes as the fifth shortest alternative route, at 57.9 miles

* Has the fourth longest length of route parallel to other existing compatible ROW, at 45.3 miles

* Has the second shortest length across mapped National Wetlands Inventory wetlands and playa lakes, at 1.1 miles

* Is tied with seven other routes for having the second least number of stream crossings, with three

* Is tied with 14 other routes with the second shortest length of ROW across known prairie dog colonies, at 0.2 miles

The TPWD also discussed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, noting that migrating waterfowl and shorebirds depend on playa lakes as critical stopover habitat during migration. Construction of transmission lines near high bird use areas like playa lakes should be avoided. If placement of transmission lines near potential migratory stopover sites is unavoidable, lines placed in areas that are or could be frequently used by migratory birds should be marked with bird flight diverters, the TPWD added.

Among other things, the TPWD addressed species of concern/important species, noting, for instance, that it supports the surveying of the commission-selected route for prairie dog colonies. If such colonies or burrows are found in the area proposed for disturbance, the TPWD recommends avoiding those areas during construction and installing exclusion fence to keep prairie dogs from entering the project area. The TPWD also said that if prairie dog colonies would be disturbed as a result of the proposed project, it recommends the burrows be surveyed for burrowing owls.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.