Texas ALJs recommend approval of ‘Route 12’ for proposed 138-kV line in Burleson County

Administrative law judges (ALJs) with the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), in an April 11 proposal for decision, recommended approval of Route 12 for Lower Colorado River Authority Transmission Services Corporation’s (LCRA TSC) proposed Cooks Point 138-kV Transmission Line in Burleson County, Texas.

As noted in the filing, LCRA TSC in May 2018 filed an application to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for the proposed line, which would connect a new load-serving electric substation located in the vicinity of the Cooks Point community in northern Burleson County – near the intersection of State Highway (SH) 21 and Farm-to-Market Road (FM) 1362 – to either the existing Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative (BBEC) Lyle Wolz substation or the BBEC Lyons substation.

At the time it filed its application, LCRA TSC identified Route 7 as the route that best addressed the commission’s routing criteria, the filing added, noting that commission staff presented evidence in support of Route 12 as the route that best addresses the commission’s routing criteria.

LCRA TSC’s witnesses and commission staff’s witnesses testified that all 29 routes under consideration are viable and meet the needs underlying the project, including Route 7 and Route 12, which are also the two least expensive routes.

The filing added that the only contested issue remaining in the docket is the route on which the project should be approved and built.

As TransmissionHub reported, LCRA TSC, in its application, said that the new Cooks Point substation and associated transmission line would avoid, for the near-term transmission planning horizon, the need for BBEC to rebuild the 11.5-mile, 138-kV Gay Hill-Lyons transmission line by 2023, which ERCOT identified as a reliability project in the 2017 Regional Transmission Plan report.

Noting that it retained URS Corp., to prepare the environmental assessment (EA), LCRA TSC said that it identified Route 7 as the primary alternative route that it believes best addresses certain requirements and rules. LCRA TSC noted that Route 7, for instance:

  • Has the lowest estimated cost of the 26 primary alternative routes included in the application – about $35.2m
  • Is generally consistent with the route preferences indicated by Caldwell and Burleson County in resolutions passed in support of the proposed project, an expression of community values
  • Has the third shortest length of the 26 primary alternative routes included in the application – about 17.8 miles, and is 0.7 mile longer than the shortest route
  • Parallels and is adjacent to existing corridors for about 85% of its total estimated length – 15.1 miles of 17.8 miles
  • Traverses potential endangered species – Houston Toad – habitat for 0.4 mile
  • Does not cross any recorded cultural resources sites and has two additional recorded cultural resources sites located within 1,000 feet of the route centerline

Among other things, LCRA TSC said that primary alternative route 7 has 42 habitable structures within 300 feet of the centerline – primary alternative routes 15 and 23 have the lowest at 19 each, while primary alternative route 5 has the most at 63.

According to the April 11 proposal for decision, Route 12 – which is the sixth shortest route at 18.3 miles and is estimated to be the second least expensive route, with an estimated cost of about $35.7m – reflects a relatively low number of habitable structures within 300 feet of the centerline in comparison to the other routes – 10 more than the route that impacts the least habitable structures, and less than the number of structures – 42 – impacted by the route identified by LCRA TSC as meeting the most statutory and regulatory criteria – Route 7.

The ALJs said that therefore, they conclude that Route 12 is better positioned than Route 7 in regard to the most significant measurable data pertaining to community values.

The filing also noted that according to LCRA TSC’s application, while all of the primary alternative routes cross some forest and shrub land, and therefore may potentially impact wildlife, those impacts are anticipated to be minimal, as the primary alternative routes parallel existing right of way (ROW) or other existing features, such as apparent property lines, to the greatest extent reasonable. The filing said that the evidence shows that Route 12 has the least impact of any route on environmental integrity.

The filing noted that Route 12 is the best alternative route because it, for instance, utilizes paralleling – including all compatible corridors – for 16.5 miles, or 90% of its total length; utilizes the Lyle Wolz substation endpoint, which better addresses reliability concerns than routes utilizing the Lyons substation endpoint; impacts 28 habitable structures; crosses the endangered Houston toad’s potential habitat for 0.3 miles, which is tied with Route 21, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s recommended route for second least distance crossed; does not cross any rare or unique plant location; and crosses the least amount of areas of high prehistoric and historic archaeological site potential – 1.2 miles.

Among other things, the filing said that the authority granted by the order is limited to a period of seven years from the date the order is signed unless, before that time, the line is commercially energized. Also, LCRA TSC must, for example, coordinate with pipeline owners or operators in the vicinity of the approved route regarding the pipeline owners’ or operators’ assessment of the need to install measures to mitigate the effects of AC interference on existing natural gas pipelines that are paralleled by the proposed transmission facilities.

According to the estimated schedule included in the application, ROW and land acquisition would start in October 2019, and be completed in December 2020; engineering and design would start in July 2019, and be completed in April 2020; material and equipment procurement would start in August 2019, and be completed in March 2021; construction of facilities would start in June 2020, and be completed in May 2021, which is also when the facilities would be energized.

As noted in an April 11 filing from the state Office of Policy & Docket Management to all parties of record, the proposal for decision will be considered at the commission’s open meeting scheduled for May 23. The deadline for filing exceptions to the proposal for decision is April 23, while the deadline for filing replies to exceptions is May 6, the filing noted.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2931 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.