The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on April 15 told the Public Utility Commission of Texas that of the 34 alternative routes evaluated in an environmental assessment (EA) for a transmission project proposed by Sharyland Utilities L.P., and Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L), “Alternative Route 34” appears to be the route that causes the least adverse impacts to natural resources.
As noted in the filing, Sharyland and LP&L are proposing to build the double-circuit, 115-kV and/or single-circuit, double-circuit-capable, 345-kV electric transmission line in Hale and Lubbock counties (the Abernathy to North to North Loop 345/115-kV Transmission Line).
The goal of the proposed line is to interconnect Sharyland’s existing Abernathy station located in Hale County with the northern portion of LP&L’s planned 115-kV transmission line loop at either the existing LP&L’s X-FAB station or LP&L’s existing Northwest station in Lubbock County.
The TPWD added that depending on the route selected by the commission, the line would be routed through one of three alternative locations for Sharyland’s proposed North station in Lubbock County.
If the commission selects a route that requires the use of North Station Option 1, the line would be a single-circuit, 345-kV line on double-circuit-capable structures from the existing Abernathy station to the proposed North Station Option 1 location, and a double-circuit, 115-kV line from North Station Option 1 to the existing X-FAB station or the existing Northwest station.
The TWPD also said that if the commission selects a route that requires the use of North Station Option 2, the line would be a single-circuit, 345-kV line on double-circuit-capable structures from the existing Abernathy station to the proposed North Station Option 2 location, and a double-circuit, 115-kV line from North Station Option 2 to the existing X-FAB station or the existing Northwest station.
If the commission selects a route that requires the use of North Station Option 3, the line would be a single-circuit, 345-kV line on double-circuit-capable structures and would directly interconnect at the existing X-FAB station.
The TPWD added that the line would be about 22.4 to 32.4 miles long depending on the route approved by the commission. The 345-kV segments of the line would be built on a combination of monopole and lattice tower structures within an approximately 175-foot-wide right of way (ROW). The TPWD added that the 115-kV segments of the line would be built on a combination of monopole structures within an approximately 60-foot-wide ROW.
Sharyland retained POWER Engineers Inc., to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) in support of the application of Sharyland and LP&L for a certificate of convenience and necessity for the project. The TPWD added that after reviewing the results of POWER’s evaluation, in addition to considering other factors, Sharyland and LP&L concluded that Alternative Route 25 best addresses the requirements of the Public Utility Regulatory Act and commission substantive rules, the TPWD said, adding that Alternative Route 25, for instance, has a total length of 24.6 miles and parallels existing transmission line or other compatible ROWs for 57% of its length.
The EA did not provide sufficient information based on surveys, remote sensing, modeling, or other available analysis techniques to determine which route would best minimize impacts to important, rare, and protected species, the TPWD said, adding that as a result, the TPWD’s routing recommendation is based solely on the natural resource information provided in the application and the EA, as well as publicly available information examined in a Geographic Information System.
Further discussing its recommendation for the project to use Alternative Route 34, the TPWD said that that route is the second shortest route at 22.7 miles, and parallels existing transmission line or other compatible ROWs for 74% of its length.
The TPWD said that it also recommends that any commission certificate preclude vegetation clearing activities during the general bird nesting season, March 15 through Sept. 15, to avoid adverse impacts to birds.
In addition, the TPWD said that it recommends avoiding disturbance of the Texas horned lizard, its burrows, and colonies of its primary food source, the harvester ant, during clearing and construction.
Among other things, the TPWD said that it recommends surveying the selected route for prairie dog colonies, adding that if such colonies or burrows are found in the area proposed for disturbance, then the TPWD recommends avoiding those areas during construction and installing exclusion fence to keep prairie dogs from entering the project area.