SWEPCO Project May Run Through Ozark Tourism

SWEPCOBy Terrah Baker

The proposed 48-mile Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) power-line to run next to Beaver Lake, through the Ozark mountains and to a new power station close to Berryville is being opposed by local landowners, cities and businesses for its potentially devastating affects to tourism and the Ozarks.

Among the about 38 Petitions to Intervene that have been filed with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) — the regulating office in cases of state land right-of-ways for utilities — are the cities of Bentonville, Garfield, Springdale, Cave City, along with organizations like Wal-mart Real Estate Business Trust, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, Southwest Powerpool Inc., individuals and groups like Save the Ozarks.org.

These petitions show an organization’s interest in taking part in the process of developing the power line said SWEPCO’s Corporate Communications Representative Peter Main. But for one activist and Eureka Springs resident Ilene Powell the petition was a way to show strong opposition.

In accordance with rules requiring legal representation to file a Petition to Intervene with the APSC, Save the Ozarks.org has hired a lawyer to point out how the project will ruin land owners’ investments and a large region of the Ozarks.

“These lines will have 150-foot tall poles — much taller than our trees,” Powell explained. “Over 800 acres of trees will be taken down. Simply, it would decimate Ozarks’ tourism for NWA.”

SWEPCO1The metal poles holding the 345-thousand volt line will be placed every 800 feet among one of the six proposed routes that were narrowed down from over 100 routes originally laid out by Southwest Powerpool Inc. (SPI) surveyors — the governing body ensuring a reliable source of electricity for residents. The construction of these new stations and transmission lines are what SPI said is necessary for future population growth, as soon as 2016.

“It’s important to have long-term planning in place to build the infrastructure to serve customers in the future. This planning affects the reliability of electric supply for all customers served,” Main said.

The 48-mile transmission line will be connected to two new transmission stations: Shipe Road Station currently under construction near Centerton in Benton County and the proposed Kings River Station to be constructed on SWEPCO-owned property northwest of Berryville in Carroll County. Powell said the property was previously pasture-land acquired for $15,000 an acre from a local real estate agent who owned it.

Main said there is much consideration that goes into projects, but all transmission stations will have an impact; which is why they propose multiple routes as part of the process.

But whatever the route, Save the Ozarks.org and others argue the growth is not worth the risks.

“There may be a compromise there somewhere, but we are opposing all of the six proposed routes. No one puts 150-foot electric lines on their bucket list,” Powell said.

Land owners on some of the proposed routes received notice to possibly make way for the line, and they now have 30 days from April 24 to file a Petition to Intervene and submit comments with the ASPC. Residents of affected areas have also been informed that the cost of the facilities will be shared by third-party transmission service customers. (SWEPCO is not the exclusive user of the line.) For SWEPCO retail customers, the impact is estimated to be $0.51 per 1,000 kWh.

Save the Ozarks.org has been educating and reaching out to as many community members as possible before that deadline. To do this, they are holding a community vigil and symbolic response to the proposed SWEPCO project on Thurs. May 23 at Basin Spring Park in Eureka Springs where they’re asking concerned citizens — of which they say everyone who could be affected by loss of tourism or beauty in the Ozarks should be — will write notes of opposition on their bodies.

The idea is inspired by a group that started “Dear World” after Hurricane Katrina to send photographic love notes to New Orleans, where people know what it’s like to nearly lose everything, but learned to never lose their voice.

“We ask people to write their notes of support to affected property owners and write notes of opposition to SWEPCO on their arms, hands and palms. Photographers are invited to capture these messages so that the world can hear us,” the press release said.

Afro-Disiacs will be performing at 7 p.m. with their song “Raise Your Voice,” followed by a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m.

The group and other opposers of the line attended a Quorum Court meeting on May 17 to speak out.

They’re also accepting $5 donations for individual yard signs. Signs are available at the following locations in Eureka Springs, AR: Caribe Restaurante, 309 West Van Buren (Hwy. 62W) DeVito’s of Eureka Spring, 5 Center Street Sweet Spring Antiques, 2 Pine Street UPS Store, 103 E. Van Buren (Hwy. 62E)

More information can be found about the project and the groups efforts at www.facebook.com/pages/Save-The-Ozarks or savetheozarks.org

Categories: Legacy Archive