Have some questions about Save the Ozarks and our cause?
Browse our Frequently Asked Questions below!
Save the Ozarks is a group of dedicated volunteers who are working to protect the Ozark Highlands from the permanent, irreversible damage — aesthetic, economic and environmental — that will occur if a proposal to construct a 345,000-volt transmission line through the heart of the Ozarks is allowed to proceed.
Our purpose is to preserve, protect and enhance the environment of the Ozarks and the quality of life of all its inhabitants. To learn more …
The Ozark Highlands are one of the world’s oldest continually exposed terrains. No glacier or sea has covered the Ozarks for more than 250 million years so these old mountains and hollers have been a safe haven for countless living creatures over many millennia.
Today, these ancient, forest-covered mountains still serve as a refuge for innumerable plants and animals – many of them endangered, threatened or rare. At least 160 species found in the Ozarks occur nowhere else in the world.
The Ozarks have an abundance of rivers, lakes, and streams and, as is characteristic of karst terrain, an even greater abundance of caves, springs, sinkholes, stony bluffs and outcroppings.
All of these are essential aspects of the unique beauty of the Ozarks — the tranquility and natural splendor that is the foundation of a thriving tourism economy and the extraordinary quality of life of its inhabitants.
The bulk electric system in the area potentially impacted by SWEPCO’s Shipe Road – Kings River Project is comprised of the 161 kV and 345 kV transmission lines, substations and one power plant shown on the map below. SWEPCO owns all 345 kV transmission lines (shown in red) that are located in Arkansas. However, all portions of the Flint Creek – Brookline 345 kV transmission line that are located in Missouri are owned by other utilities. In Arkansas, SWEPCO owns the 161 kV transmission lines (in blue) that are located west of the Osage Creek Substation, while Entergy Arkansas owns the 161 kV transmission lines to the east of that substation.
The Shipe Road – Kings River Project is a proposal by Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) to construct a 345,000-volt transmission line across the Ozark Highlands. The transmission line is planned to begin at SWEPCO’s Shipe Road Substation, now under construction west of Bentonville in Benton County, and end at a new substation to be constructed on the Kings River between Eureka Springs and Berryville in Carroll County. Depending on the route, the transmission line will traverse 50 to 60 miles of the fragile karst terrain in the heart of the Ozarks.
SWEPCO submitted this proposal to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) for its approval on April 3, 2013. In late March and early April, SWEPCO also sent a letter of notification to many but not all of the hundreds of people who own land the utility company plans to take for its transmission line right-of-way. The landowners learned that they could take part in the APSC decision-making process that could end in loss of their property rights and change their lives forever only by filing formal petitions within 30 days of April 3.
Save the Ozarks (STO), along with more than 35 landowners and groups of landowners, managed to meet the APSC’s 30-day deadline. Much testimony was submitted by SWEPCO and its allies as well as by STO and other opponents of SWEPCO’s plan. The APSC held two public comment hearings and a lengthy formal hearing, which was followed by more motions and submissions.
At this time, the APSC has issued 36 orders, including Order 32 and Order 33, giving its approval to SWEPCO’s project, which were followed four months later by Order 36, revoked that approval. Today, almost 18 months after SWEPCO submitted its application for approval of its Shipe Road – Kings River Project, the APSC has not yet made a final decision. Given the likely course of events, the APSC’s final decision to approve or deny this project is not expected for another year or more.
What is the route of this extra-high voltage transmission line? There’s no answer to this question right now. In the application submitted to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC), SWEPCO proposed the six routes shown in the map below –`preferred’ Route 33 and five alternatives, Routes 62, 86, 91, 108 and 109. The APSC approved SWEPCO’s project and selected Route 109 in January of 2014, and then reversed these decisions four months later.
If the Commission again approves SWEPCO’s project and chooses a route, that route will be one of SWEPCO’s six routes, either as is or with modifications, or it will be an entirely new route devised by the Commission. This means that virtually all private properties in most of Benton County, Arkansas, the western portion of Carroll County, Arkansas, and the southernmost portions of Barry and McDonald Counties in Missouri can be considered at risk of being traversed by SWEPCO’s transmission line right-of-way.
The course of events is as follows:
- SWEPCO presented six possible transmission line routes in its application of April 3, 2013;
- On August 12, 2013, the APSC issued Order 20 to remove three routes from consideration, which left three possible routes – Routes 33, 108, and 109 .
- On January 17 and 21, 2014, respectively, the APSC issued Order 32 and Order 33 to approve the project, choose Route 109, and find Routes 33 and 108 to be “unreasonable;”
- On March 14, 2014, SWEPCO filed a petition for a limited rehearing, asking the Commission to approve Route 33 as it is or as it will be with modifications that include two entirely new segments and a segment of Routes 86 and 91.
- On March 18, 2014, Save the Ozarks filed a petition for rehearing, asking the Commission to deny approval of the project “because the Commission’s decision issuing a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) to SWEPCO for Route 109 is arbitrary and unreasonable, is contrary to Arkansas and federal law, is contrary to the Arkansas and Federal constitutional guarantees of due process, is not supported by substantial evidence, and is unjust for all the reasons presented herein.”
- On June 9, 2014, the Commission issued Order 36, granting both petitions for rehearing, revoking the approval and selection of Route 109, and ordering a comprehensive reevaluation of the need for the project as well as several other major issues;
- In SWEPCO’s letter of July 3, 2014, the utility company informed the Commission that the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) would prepare the comprehensive reevaluation and expected to complete it in late January of 2015;
- In Save the Ozarks’ letter of July 29, 2014, the organization asked the Commission to deny SWEPCO’s application and close the docket or, if the Commission does not close the docket, order SWEPCO to reimburse STO’s and the other opposing intervenors’ experts and attorneys’ fees going forward, including the fees and expenses of STO expert Dr. Hyde Merrill, for any participation, and 1) allow STO and other opposing intervenors an equal amount of time to review SPP’s comprehensive reevaluation after its completion, or 2) direct SWEPCO and SPP to provide STO and the other intervenors all drafts, models, input data, assumptions, reports, appendices, and other
relevant materials as the 6-7 month study period proceeds, to enable STO’s experts to have ample opportunity to become familiar with and analyze the new data and studies before active litigation in this docket resumes, and to offer constructive suggestions to SWEPCO’s and SPP’s, and to allow certain STO-designated individuals to participate as stakeholders in the process of reevaluation and consideration of alternatives as ordered by the Commission.
- As of Oct. 18, 2014, the Commission has not responded to SWEPCO’s letter of July 3, 2014, or STO’s letter of July 30, 2014.
Construction of the transmission line consists broadly of the following steps:
- Surveying and marking the right-of-way and access roads;
- Constructing access roads: Access road must have the width and strength necessary to support frequent use by heavy earth-moving equipment and transportation vehicles carrying heavy loads. The total area to be clear-cut, bulldozed and adequately leveled for access roads has not been estimated. However, like the right-of-way, access roads will be constructed in karst terrain, some portion of which is covered by pristine or near-pristine forest.
- Preparing the right-of-way: All forest growth will be cleared from a strip of land that is 50 to 60 miles long and 150 feet wide – an area equivalent to 730 to 880 full-size football fields laid end-to-end. The clear-cut right-of-way, which will encompass a total of 900-1,000 acres, will go across old mountains and hollers that are now covered predominantly by near-pristine forest.
- Installing the transmission line towers: About 300 towers – 20-ton steel monopoles that are 130 to 160 feet tall — will be erected along the right-of-way at intervals of about 800 feet. At the site for each tower, more than ¼ acre of land will be bulldozed and leveled, and a borehole will be drilled and/or blasted into the karst terrain to a depth of 30 to 40 feet and a width of 6 to 10 feet. Every borehole will be filled with more than 200 tons of concrete that will serve as a foundation for a tower.
- Once bolted to or embedded in the foundations, the towers will stand above the Ozark forest at heights twice that of the tallest trees.
Yes, Save the Ozarks has a three-part plan aimed at stopping SWEPCO’s proposed project:
- Educate the general public, ensuring that all are well-informed about SWEPCO’s proposed project, its potential impacts, the regulatory process, and the regulatory and legal status;
- Participate fully in the Arkansas Public Service Commission’s quasi-legal, decision-making process and, should the Commission make a final decision to approve SWEPCO’s project, seek review by the Arkansas Court of Appeals; and
- Advocate for energy self-reliance based on renewable energy, especially residential solar power, and energy conservation as the most resilient, sustainable and affordable means for meeting local, regional, state and national power needs.
Save the Ozarks (STO) sought and was granted intervenor status in the Arkansas Public Service Commission’s proceedings for SWEPCO’s application for approval for the Shipe Road – Kings River Project.
STO challenged the need for this transmission line project in our petition to intervene and has continued to emphasize this key issue in expert testimonies, cross-examination of SWEPCO’s witnesses, and subsequent submissions.
Among more than 30 other intervenors opposing the project, STO is the only intervenor to bring expert witnesses:
- an expert transmission line planner to analyze and disprove SWEPCO’s claims that there is a public need for the 345 kV transmission line;
- an expert hydrogeologist to discount the utility company’s claims of no significant environmental impacts; and
- a visual impacts expert to rebut SWEPCO’s claims of no significant aesthetic impacts.
If STO had not intervened and challenged the need for SWEPCO’s Shipe Road – Kings River Project, the transmission line would, in all likelihood, be under construction today.
STO’s all-volunteer staff makes every effort to inform and engage the general public, state and federal agencies, elected officials, county and municipal governments, elected officials, and news media in all issues related to SWEPCO’s proposed project.
STO holds public meetings; prepares and distributes fact sheets; meets with civic groups, business groups, religious groups, and other special interest groups; circulates petitions and information at public events; operates a website offering easy access to relevant information; and operates a Facebook page to facilitate information exchange within the public sphere.
STO has ongoing communications with city councils, county quorum courts, state and federal agencies, religious groups, business groups, professional associations, elected officials, and public figures, encouraging them to voice publicly their opposition to and/or concerns about SWEPCO’s plan.
Submission of a record-breaking number of public comments – more than 6,000 – urging the APSC to deny SWEPCO’s application attests to the effectiveness of STO’s public education/outreach campaign.
Another record was broken when hundreds of Ozark residents came forward to state their opposition to SWEPCO’s proposed project at the public comment hearings held by the APSC in Northwest Arkansas.
To approve SWEPCO’s project, the Arkansas Public Service Commission is required by state law to determine that the project meets a public need.
SWEPCO claimed that substantial growth in the region created a public need for adding transmission capacity to improve reliability, specifically in Carroll County, Arkansas.
SWEPCO’s claims regarding substantial growth and the accompanying need for increased transmission capacity are not supported by US Census data, and the claim of a need to improve reliability is not supported by data provided by the region’s primary provider of retail electricity.
In June of 2013, Save the Ozarks expert witness, Dr. Hyde Merrill and Lanny Nickell, expert witness for the Southwest Power Pool, independently re-evaluated the only contingency (the loss or failure of a small part of the power system) that is cited in SWEPCO’s application as violating NERC criteria and the sole basis for the need for the facilities. Dr. Merrill and Mr. Nickell concur that the contingency will not cause a violation in 2016. No studies carried out since 2006-2007 and presented in the APSC proceeding show that it will ever cause a violation.
Benton County’s population has grown at a rate of 2 percent per year since 2007, when the supposed basis for SWEPCO’s project was first established.
During that same period, the population of Carroll County has grown by less than 0.2 percent per year.
Since 2000, for the first time in modern history, the rate of growth in electricity consumption in the US has dropped well below the rate of population growth.
A similar decline in the demand for electricity is evident in the area where SWEPCO contends there is a public need for the Shipe Road – Kings River Project. For example, electricity consumption fell by 0.5 percent during 2011-2013, according to Carroll Electric Cooperative Corporation, the primary retail electricity provider for both Benton and Carroll Counties.
Carroll Electric Cooperative Corporation (CECC) is the primary retail electricity provider for Benton and Carroll Counties. In CECC’s 2013 Annual Report, President/CEO Rob Boaz noted, “Since 2008, outage times for a typical day have been reduced 55 percent.”
This suggests that reliability in Benton and Carroll Counties has improved dramatically since the Southwest Power Pool devised a plan for a loop of new 345 kV transmission lines across these two counties and ordered the construction of one leg of the loop.
An official with Entergy Arkansas, owner of the transmission lines in eastern Carroll County, testified that there are no reliability problems on Entergy power lines to be resolved by SWEPCO’s project.
STO’s transmission line planning expert discounted SWEPCO’s initial claim of a public need for its project. This finding was subsequently confirmed by SWEPCO’s expert witness during cross-examination.
This same expert witness for SWEPCO came forward with a new list of predicted reliability problems as the basis for SWEPCO’s claim of a public need for its project.
Many of these newly predicted problems do not prove a public need for SWEPCO’s project because they do not meet transmission planning standards established by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). These new problems were predicted to occur under conditions that are far more extreme than the conditions called for in the NERC standards as well as the standards followed by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) for transmission planning.
The remaining newly-introduced reliability problems that comply with NERC and SPP planning standards were predicted to occur on transmission lines owned by Entergy Arkansas and managed by Mid-Continent Systems Operator (MISO).
Officials with both Entergy Arkansas and MISO deny that SWEPCO’s project is needed to resolve reliability problems on Entergy’s transmission lines. In a letter of Aug. 5, 2013, Jeffrey Webb, director of expansion planning for MISO, noted that SWEPCO’s project was not “for the purposes of meeting applicable reliability standards on the Entergy system.” This was corroborated by Melinda Montgomery, manager of transmission planning for Entergy Arkansas, in oral testimony at the Arkansas Public Service Commission hearing.
In its application to the Arkansas Public Service Commission, SWEPCO made few claims about the environmental impacts of the Shipe Road – Kings River Project. Instead SWEPCO listed its criteria for evaluating routes, making only these claims: “Line routing was chosen to avoid, to the fullest extent possible, private dwellings and/or commercial buildings and with the goal of minimizing the impact to current and potential future usage of the land,” and “Line routing and design was performed to provide adequate consideration for effective project cost management.”
In the Environmental Impact Statement, SWEPCO made many claims. However, most claims related to environmental impacts are described so briefly and in such broad terms as to be meaningless. For example, the following items are listed as “unavoidable adverse impacts to natural resources” with no further explanation or elaboration:
- Soil disturbance from transmission line and substation construction
- Construction traffic disturbance and disruption;
- Loss of vegetation from additional tree-trimming and clearing;
- Loss of wildlife habitat from right-of-way and substation clearing;
- Conversion of 10-15 acres of pasture to the Kings River Substation; and
- Potential bird mortality from collisions with the transmission line conductors and/or shield wire.
Construction, operation and maintenance of SWEPCO’s transmission line project will cause permanent, irreversible damage to the environment of the Ozarks.
Construction of the transmission line will fragment the forests; collapse the roofs and walls of many of the karst terrain’s innumerable caves; destroy and/or disrupt the flow of many of the thousands of springs that are known to exist in the region; and contaminate not only the region’s springs but also the losing streams and, consequently the groundwater and lakes with sediment. These direct physical impacts will be accompanied by loss of habitat for forest-dwelling species, cave-dwelling species; and aquatic species. Loss of habitat will lead to the demise of some species and a failure to thrive for others.
Unless extraordinary precautions are taken, construction of the transmission line will also introduce invasive species that will take over the habitats of the endangered, rare and indigenous species that currently inhabit this region.
SWEPCO plans to maintain the transmission line right-of-way by using both herbicides and physical methods to keep it completely and perpetually free of forest growth. (See SWEPCO petition for limited rehearing.) Like sediment, herbicide run-off will contaminate the water of some of the region’s many losing streams and springs as well as the groundwater that is the sole source of drinking water for the majority of the area’s rural residents who rely on private wells as well as the habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures, including many that are endangered, threatened or rare.
To learn more …
Arkansas law requires SWEPCO to submit “an analysis of the projected economic or financial impact” on local communities of their project.
Instead SWEPCO submitted only a brief, unsupported claim that construction and operation of the transmission line and new substation “would not significantly affect employment or income.”
Construction, operation and maintenance of SWEPCO’s Shipe Road – Kings River Project transmission will cause irreparable harm to the economy of Northwest Arkansas in particular and the economy of the state as a whole. As noted by Richard Davies, Director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the members of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission:
“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 in 2012. … 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.”
Every industry requires raw materials. If an industry’s raw materials become too scarce or poor in quality, the industry will collapse. The natural beauty of the Ozark Highlands is our `raw material’ and it is essential to the tourism industry of Northwest Arkansas in particular and the state as a whole. Tourism is the second largest industry in Arkansas, with nearly $6 billion/year in tourist spending, 60,000 jobs with $1.1 billion in salaries, and more than $500 million in state and local taxes (See Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Annual Report 2013).
In his recent summary presentation, “The Impact of Tourism and Hospitality in Arkansas,” Dr. Robert Harrington points out that the tourism industry in Arkansas has a total economic impact of $8.42 billion. In Northwest Arkansas, the tourism industry has a total economic impact of $1.1 billion, generating direct revenues per capita of $1574.87 in Northwest Arkansas and $6283.73 in Carroll County. According to Dr. Harrington, the hospitality and leisure job sector was “among the fastest growing sectors” in Northwest Arkansas with a 33.3% growth during 2007-2013.
The scenic beauty of the Ozarks will be permanently and irreversibly disfigured if SWEPCO is allowed to build its massive 50-60 mile long, 345 kV transmission line. The number of tourists who seek natural beauty will diminish and the area’s economy will shrink accordingly. Economic damage caused by the transmission line will be most notable in eastern Benton County and western Carroll Counties, where the economy is based almost entirely on tourism and where the impacts of SWEPCO’s project on the area’s scenic beauty will be most dramatic.
Owners of properties traversed by and/or within sight of the proposed routes for SWEPCO’s transmission line have been suffering impacts of the project since SWEPCO submitted its application to Arkansas Public Service Commission on April 3, 2013. Many Ozark property owners have been forced to abandon plans to sell homes and acreage, build homes or otherwise develop their land. Property owners and realtors are watching as potential buyers walk away or withdraw offers when they learn that SWEPCO’s transmission line may traverse or be near to properties of interest.
SWEPCO’s project does not have the approval of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. In Order 36, issued in June of 2014, the Commission vacated the earlier approval of the project granted in Order 32 and Order 33.
In Order 36, the Commission found that “the record is presently insufficient to determine: the need for the particular 345 kV project that has been proposed …,” thus confirming Save the Ozark’s claim that SWEPCO had failed to prove a need for its project. Despite being directed by Arkansas law to do so, the Commission did not “conclude the proceedings as expeditiously as practicable” with Order 36. Instead the Commission gave SWEPCO the opportunity to make a third attempt to prove a need for its project by asking for a comprehensive reevaluation of the need for the project, as well as almost all other important aspects.
In Order 36, the Commission also noted that a procedural schedule would be issued. However, after four months, the Commission still has not produced a procedural schedule indicating if or when the proceeding will continue. Meanwhile, SWEPCO informed the Commission that the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has taken responsibility for the reevaluation and will devote 6-7 months to its completion so this new evidence will not be submitted to the Commission until sometime in 2015.
Once SPP provides the Commission and all other parties, including STO, with its comprehensive reevaluation, the ensuing process seems likely to be at least as lengthy, laborious and costly as that for SWEPCO’s initial application.
Order 36, issued by the Arkansas Public Service Commission on June 9, 2014, corroborates STO’s claims that SWEPCO failed to prove a public need for its Shipe Road – Kings River Project, submitted an Environmental Impact Statement that is incomplete and severely flawed, and failed adequately to consider alternatives.
The Commission ordered a rehearing for the purpose of considering “additional evidence on the need for, and the potential environmental impact of, the proposed 345 kV project.” Parties are required to “provide additional testimony and more recent, comprehensive evidence on whether the proposed 345 kV project is needed, whether transmission requirements in the region might be met by alternative options, such as expanding, upgrading, or building lower capacity facilities, including 161 kV lines, and if not why not, the comparative costs associated with the options, the environmental impact of the options, and the long term sufficiency of the options.”
The Commission also asked for additional evidence on SWEPCO’s proposed routes, noting that, if “SWEPCO chooses to propose or modify a route, it should submit proof that all landowners have received the statutory notice.” Further, they ordered parties to “provide evidence whether existing 161 kV lines could be upgraded or existing rights-of-way used or expanded so as to limit adverse environmental impacts.”
It is impossible to predict when or if the Arkansas Public Service Commission will set a procedural schedule. However, if the Commission follows the directions given by SWEPCO’s attorney in his letter of July 3, 2014, it seems possible that a schedule may be forthcoming by March or April of 2015.
According to the letter, SWEPCO has relinquished all responsibility for complying with the Commission’s order for additional evidence to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). SPP is to develop and compile the requested evidence and intends to follow its own schedule in doing so. SPP “anticipates that the comprehensive evaluation requested by the Commission will be complete at the end of January 2015.”
The Arkansas Public Service Commission has not responded to SWEPCO’s letter of July 3, 2014.
Following SWEPCO’s letter explaining to the Arkansas Public Service Commission how and when the Commission can continue with its process, Save the Ozarks (STO) requested in its letter of July 29, 2014, that the Commission deny SWEPCO’s application and close the current docket.
If the Commission does not deny SWEPCO’s original application and close the docket, STO asks the Commission to order SWEPCO to reimburse STO’s and other intervenors’ experts and attorneys’ fees going forward. STO points out that, without such an order, SWEPCO and SPP can simply continue to submit flawed applications, year after year, with the aim of exhausting intervenors’ financial resources. This will not serve the public interest and will be contrary to the intent of the Arkansas Legislature.
STO also proposed the following alternatives in the event that the Commission does not close the docket:
- If the Commission allows SWEPCO and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) an additional 6-7 months, as directed in the letter of July 3, 2014, then the Commission should allow STO and other intervenors an equal period of time to review SPP’s studies after they are completed; and
- If the Commission denies the above alternative, then the Commission should direct SWEPCO and SPP to provide STO and other intervenors all drafts, models, input data, assumptions, reports, appendices, and other relevant materials as the 6-7 month study period proceeds, and allow STO-designated individuals to participate as stakeholders in the process of reevaluation and consideration of alternatives in the same manner as SPP’s other stakeholders.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission has not responded to Save the Ozarks’ request.
Southwestern Electric Power (SWEPCO) is an electric utility company that provides electric power to relatively small areas of Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. SWEPCO serves 113,650 customers in western Arkansas, only 7 percent of the state’s electricity consumers. In Arkansas, SWEPCO owns about 60 miles of 345 kV transmission lines that occupy some 1,000 acres of land. Some of this land was acquired in eminent domain lawsuits filed by SWEPCO against private property owners.
SWEPCO is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP).
American Electric Power (AEP), SWEPCO’s parent company, is one of the largest investor-owned utility companies in the U.S. AEP owns about 40,000 miles of transmission lines — more than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP’s transmission lines can be estimated to occupy more than 700,000 acres of land, some of which AEP acquired by filing eminent domain lawsuits against private property owners.
The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) is a regional transmission operator authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to operate and plan transmission lines in all or part of nine states, including a portion of western Arkansas. SPP owns no transmission lines or power plants. SPP manages transmission lines, acting like an “air traffic controller” for the electricity that flows through the lines, and is responsible for maintaining the short-term reliability of the lines. SPP uses computer modeling to predict where and when there are likely to be problems in maintaining the flow of electricity through the lines in its area.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority whose mission is to ensure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America. NERC develops and enforces Reliability Standards; annually assesses seasonal and long‐term reliability; monitors the bulk power system through system awareness; and educates, trains, and certifies industry personnel. NERC’s area of responsibility spans the continental United States, Canada, and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico. NERC is the electric reliability organization for North America, subject to oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and governmental authorities in Canada. NERC’s jurisdiction includes users, owners, and operators of the bulk power system, which serves more than 334 million people.
The Shipe Road – Kings River Project has its beginnings in the Ozark Transmission Study, a long-range plan devised by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) in 2006-2007. To carry out one portion of this regional, long-range plan, SPP issued a Notice to Construct to American Electric Power (AEP) in 2008 for the following:
- 9 miles of 345 kV transmission line from the Centerton Substation west of Bentonville in Benton County to East Rogers Substation
- 32 miles of 345 kV transmission line from East Rogers Substation to the Osage Creek Substation on the Kings River, east of Eureka Springs and west of Berryville in Carroll County, and
- a new 345/161 kV transformer at the Osage Creek Substation.
AEP subsequently directed its wholly-owned subsidiary, SWEPCO, to execute SPP’s Notice to Construct.
SWEPCO considered SPP’s Notice to Construct, but, at some point, apparently decided to devise a new, somewhat different plan as follows:
- 50-60 miles of 345 kV transmission line from the Shipe Road Substation, currently under construction by SWEPCO at a site near the Centerton Substation in Benton County to a proposed new substation, and
- a new substation, the Kings River Substation, that SWEPCO proposes to build on a site purchased by SWEPCO on January 30, 2013, that is north of the Osage Creek Substation in Carroll County.
On April 3, 2013, SWEPCO submitted its new plan — the Shipe Road – Kings River Project — to the Arkansas Public Service Commission for approval, presenting SPP’s Notice to Construct as the authorization for its project and SPP’s Ozark Transmission Study as the basis of need for its project.
In the event that the APSC approves the project and the Arkansas Court of Appeals does not uphold STO’s appeal of that decision, SWEPCO’s first steps will include obtaining rights to the 900-1,000 acres of land that the transmission line will occupy. Virtually all of this land is, at present, the private property of several hundred landowners.
SWEPCO will contract with appraisers to determine the ownership of each traversed property and the `fair market value’ of the desired 150-foot wide strip across each property. SWEPCO will then send land agents to the landowners, asking for their signatures on easement agreements in return for a sum of money – either the so-called ’fair market value’ of the land to be taken for the transmission line right-of-way or a sum arrived at through negotiation.
Landowners who reject SWEPCO’s monetary offer and refuse to sign easement agreements will eventually face legal action. SWEPCO will file lawsuits under the state law that gives the investor-owned utility the power of eminent domain when the APSC approves its application.
Landowners can expect to be ordered by the court to concede their property to SWEPCO. At the same time, however, the court will order SWEPCO to give each landowner a sum of money that is determined by a jury of the landowner’s peers.
In some cases, courts have ordered utility companies to compensate landowners in sums that are many times larger than the `fair market value’ that has been offered. Further, the court rules only on the right-of-way itself. This means the landowner who has not signed an easement agreement has the right to seek further compensation or otherwise negotiate terms on other issues, such as access roads, herbicide use, notification of entry, etc.
Disclaimer: This information is for general purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking to evaluate matters related to takings by eminent domain or other legal matters should consult a qualified attorney.
Property owners who accept SWEPCO’s offer and sign the easement agreement commonly used by the utility company will concede far more to SWEPCO than the right to use a 150-foot wide strip across their property. For example, landowners who signed easement agreements with SWEPCO on the company’s Flint Creek – Shipe Road 345 kV transmission line in western Benton County gave SWEPCO the following rights:
- the right “to do anything necessary, useful or convenient;”
- the right of access – at any time, with no notice — not only to the easement but also to all adjoining property;
- the right to install, extend and maintain guy wires, anchors and anchoring systems not only on the easement but also on adjoining property;
- the right to remove and control trees, limbs, brush and/or vegetation not only on the easement but also on adjoining property; and
- the right to construct access roads across adjoining property. [link to STO flyer with easement agreement]
To learn more …
Disclaimer: This information is for general purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking to evaluate matters related to takings by eminent domain or other legal matters should consult a qualified attorney.