When SWEPCO applied to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) for approval of its Shipe Road – Kings River Project on April 3, 2013, the investor-owned utility company described six possible routes through the Ozarks for its 345 kV transmission line: Route 33 (the utility’s `preferred’ route), and five alternative routes (Routes 62, 86, 91, 108 and 109).
What happened next? The U.S. Corps of Engineers refused to allow three of the routes.
- In its letter of July 10, 2013, the U.S. Corps of Engineers informed the APSC as follows:
All of the proposed routes cross Corps of Engineers property. … The Corps will not, nor is able to make the land available for the crossings at these locations [crossings by Routes 62, 86 and 91] …
Of the three remaining routes, the APSC found two to be “unreasonable”, approved the one route left, and then vacated its approval of that route.
- In Order 20 of August 12, 2013, the APSC granted a motion to remove Routes 62, 86 and 91 from consideration;
- In Order 32 of January 17, 2014, the APSC announced the approval of SWEPCO’s application and selection of Route 109, which passes through southwest Missouri;
- In Order 33 (an `errata order’) of January 21, 2014 , the APSC explained that
… Routes 33 and 108 are unreasonable, and Route 109 is the only reasonable route.
- In Order 36 of June 9, 2014, the APSC vacated its approval of SWEPCO’s application and selection of Route 109.
Route 33 is orange; Route 108, purple; and Route 109, green.
Link to larger map
Why did the APSC vacate its approval of SWEPCO’s application and selection of Route 109? Because SWEPCO failed to prove the need for its project, as explained in Order 36:
… the record is presently insufficient to determine: the need for the particular 345 kV project that has been proposed, whether that project is consistent with the pubIic convenience and necessity, and whether the project represents an “acceptable adverse environmental impact, considering . . . the various alternatives, if any, and other pertinent considerations.”
What does this mean? If SWEPCO convinces the APSC yet again that the project is needed, the agency will approve the project and select a route a second time. Meanwhile, Save the Ozarks will petition the Arkansas Court of Appeals to review and potentially overturn APSC’s approval.
If the APSC approves the project again, where will the route be? The only certainty is that the APSC will select or devise a route that follows some yet-to-be-determined path between SWEPCO’s Shipe Road Substation and the site for the Kings River Substation — a 38-acre cow pasture the utility company bought for $600,000 in early 2013. It seems likely that the chosen route will be one of the three routes shown on the above map, a modified version of Route 33, 108 or 109, or a combination of various segments of these routes and certain segments of the three routes that were dismissed earlier, Routes 86, 62 and 91. (See a map of all six routes here.)