Both federal and state agencies have raised many concerns about SWEPCO’s proposed project.
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
- Letter of Nov. 6, 2013: The Council has not been contacted about the project and points out the need to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106 provides an opportunity for public input and review).
U.S. Department of Defense, Department of the Army, U.S. Corps of Engineers, Little Rock Office
- Letter of July 10, 2013: “The Corps will not, nor is able to make the land available for the crossings [of Routes 62, 86, and 91] at these locations because other practical alternatives are available. Please be advised eminent domain is not applicable to federal property. … Our concerns for all of the routes include erosion and sedimentation issues stemming from potential loss of vegetation; loss of Bald Eagle roosting habitat; impacts to cultural resources; and the aesthetic impacts from a 150 ft right-of-way through generally undisturbed areas.”
U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service
- Letter of Sept. 7, 2012: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service provides an extensive list of threatened and endangered species in the project area, notes the project’s potential for direct and/or cumulative effects on a number of species and/or their habitats, and recommends a survey of karst features (caves, sinkholes, losing streams and springs), establishing a “natural area” of 300 feet or greater around karst features, and prohibiting any blasting in the vicinity of any karst feature without previous consultation. If caves are identified, the agency should be informed, prior to or during construction, and allowed to determine if the caves are used by sensitive or federally endangered species, in which case it may recommend modification of the project.
- Letter of Sept. 26, 2012: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends protecting the endangered Indiana bats in the project area by clearing forested areas of 10 acres of less only during the bats’ hibernation period (November 1 to March 31) or, if this is not feasible or more than 10 acres of trees will be cleared, contacting the agency for further assistance. The agency also recommends maintaining buffers around streams and wetlands.
- Letter of May 21, 2013: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes the project will occur within the known range of the federally endangered Indiana bat, the federally protected Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, and recommends following the Indiana Bat Summer Survey Guidelines, the Avian Protection Plan Guidelines, and Reducing Avian Collisions with Power Lines. The agency also notes that Route 109 passes directly over the recharge zone of two caves known to support the federally listed endangered cave crayfish and recommends avoiding these areas.
U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
- Letter (undated) (posted by the APSC as Public Comment on May 14, 2013, and Dec. 6, 2013): Superintendent of Pea Ridge National Military Park notes that neither SWEPCO nor the APSC has made any contact and raises numerous concerns about potential impacts on the park.
- Letter of Aug. 20, 2013: National Park Service expresses “strong concern for specific segments of SWEPCO’s Routes 33 and 62 that could harm and potentially impair historic vistas” at the Pea Ridge National Military Park. The agency also disagrees with SWEPCO’s claim that Route 33 “will not traverse the planned additions to the park.”
- Letter listed as posted by the APSC as Public Comment on Dec. 5, 2013, but not accessible.
- Letter of Dec. 3, 2013: National Park Service says, “We would strenuously disagree with the staff of the Arkansas Public Service Commission’s (APSC) characterization … of our two comment letters and with the statement made by staff that NPS concerns have been addressed by SWEPCO,” and expresses strong concerns on a variety of other issues.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region VII
- Letter of Sept. 18, 2012: The Environmental Protection Agency urges SWEPCO to identify and minimize any disproportionate impacts on low-income populations in the Missouri counties in the project area. EPA also notes that these counties have sensitive and unique aquatic resources, including Cold Water Fishery or Outstanding State Resource waters and sensitive aquatic species, all of which could be negatively affected by the project.
Arkansas Department of Health
- Letter of April 12, 2013: ADH says, “Beaver Lake is a drinking water source for much of Northwest Arkansas. Every effort should be taken to prevent any sediment from construction run-off from entering Beaver Lake and its tributaries before, during, and after construction,” and recommends notifying the 13 public water systems within the proposed transmission line routes of any construction within their source water protection areas.
Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
- Letter of May 29, 2013: ADP&T notes, “Although the [State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission] is not in the position to establish the need for this project, they are chagrined by the impact it would have on one of the most scenic and historic areas in Arkansas. A 160 ft. tall power line stretching over 48 miles of the Ozarks will leave a lasting footprint no matter where it goes.” Describing one proposed route as “almost beyond comprehension,” the agency says, “The scenic quality of Arkansas, and especially the area this line would cross, is the number one reason people visit our state, spending $5.7 billion last year. Many of our citizens have moved to these scenic areas to avoid just this sort of intrusion. The State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission would appreciate the Public Service Commission’s consideration of these concerns.”
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
- Letter of June 5, 2013: The agency notes, “AGFC would not support alternative Route 33 if it were to cross Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area. … AGFC does not support proposed alternative Route 108 due to potential impacts to these sensitive species.”
Department of Arkansas Heritage
- Letter of May 14, 2013: DAH states, “The agency is concerned about the selection of Route 33 as the preferred alignment. This route, along with all of the northern alternatives (Routes 62, 86, 91, and 109) would result in the clearing of significant amounts of forest and woodland habitat. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project notes this impact, but fails to acknowledge the long-term adverse effects of this clearing. … Glades make up much of the woodland habitat crossed by the northern alignments in northeastern Benton and northwestern Carroll Counties. … Glades often support rare plant species, including the federally threatened plant, Missouri bladderpod … . Glade habitat is rapidly declining in Arkansas. Clearing for powerline construction would not in itself damage glades, however herbicides used to maintain powerline rights-of-way can be detrimental to glade flora.”
- Letter of April 11, 2014: Frances McSwain, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, notes “the work done for this project is in no way adequate to ensure that the proposed project does not have an adverse effect on historic properties. We remain extremely concerned about the potential impact this project could have on multiple historic properties in the State of Arkansas.”
Missouri Department of Conservation
- Letter of Oct. 4, 2012: The agency points out that the project is within the known range of the federally endangered Indiana bat and any project that involves clearing has the potential to negatively impact this species. The transmission line is a linear corridor that fragments forested habitat, harming a variety of species of wildlife that depend on contiguous tracts of forest for survival. The transmission line will cross numerous streams and should be designed to cross in straight stretches, not at meanders. If herbicides are used, impacts on non-target plants and any aquatic species should be avoided.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
- Letter of Sept. 5, 2012: The agency has determined “a moderate to high potential” for archaeological sites near and within the area of the project so that an archaeological survey with deep testing should be completed prior to any project-related construction activities.