The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on Dec. 14 told the Public Utility Commission of Texas that it recommends “Route 24” for a proposed 345-kV transmission line as the route having the least-potential to impact fish and wildlife resources.
As noted in the filing, LCRA Transmission Services Corporation (TSC) and AEP Texas, Inc., propose to build the new double-circuit, 345-kV transmission line in Pecos County, Texas. LCRA TSC would build, own, operate, and maintain the eastern half of the line connecting to LCRA TSC’s Bakersfield station and AEP Texas would build, own, operate, and maintain the western half of the line connecting to AEP Texas’ Solstice switch station.
The new line would range from about 67.8 to 91.7 miles long, depending on the route ultimately selected by the commission. The proposed project also involves construction of interconnection facilities at the existing Bakersfield station and building a 345-kV expansion station adjacent to the existing 138-kV Solstice switch station, the TPWD added.
POWER Engineers, LCRA TSC, and AEP Texas identified 25 primary alternative routes for comparison that utilize all of the alternative route segments at least once and also provide a geographic diversity. Upon evaluation of the primary alternative routes, LCRA TSC and AEP Texas selected Route 24 as the primary alternative route that they believe best addresses certain requirements. As noted in the certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) application, the TPWD added, Route 24 has a relatively low cost, as the fourth lowest cost of the 25 primary alternative routes included in the CCN – about $156m.
The TPWD noted that after careful evaluation of the 25 routes filed with the CCN application, it selected Route 24 as the route having the least-potential to impact fish and wildlife resources. The decision to recommend Route 24 was based primarily on such factors as:
- Route 24 is the fourth shortest route at 71.1 miles
- About 81% of Route 24 is parallel and adjacent to existing transmission line right of way (ROW) and other existing ROW
- Route 24 does not cross any parks and there are no additional parks or recreational areas within 1,000 feet of the ROW centerline
- Route 24 does not cross any known habitat of federally listed threatened and endangered species
- Route 24 contains the second fewest number of stream crossings at 15 stream crossings
The TPWD recommended that to prevent electrocution of perching birds, the companies should, for instance, utilize avian-safe designs that provide appropriate separation between two energized phases or between an energized phase and grounded equipment.
The TPWD also recommended excluding vegetation clearing activities during the general bird nesting season, March 15 through Sept. 15, to avoid adverse impacts to breeding birds.
The TPWD further recommended that the commission-selected route be surveyed for the Pecos sunflower – which is a federally listed endangered species that is typically restricted to saline soils of permanently wet desert marshes – where suitable habitat may be present, prior to construction.
Another recommendation calls for the companies to take measures to avoid impacts to aquatic and riparian habitats – specifically Leon Creek – which would help minimize impacts to certain federally protected aquatic species.
The TPWD also said that it recommends surveying the commission-selected route for prairie dog towns or burrows and species that depend on them. Among other things, the TPWD said that it recommends surveying the commission-selected route for potential bat habitat.