All eyes are on Collin County as Brazos Electric Power Cooperative plans to apply for permission next week with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across Frisco.
A rare partnership between Frisco homeowner associations and realtors to fight the proposed above-ground power lines has caught the attention of regulators in the state capitol.
“Realtors don’t get involved in regulatory issues very much—Austin is paying very close attention, and the regulatory community as a whole is definitely interested in this issue,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR). “It’s rare to have such a pronounced public outcry, and the PUC acknowledged this in our meeting yesterday.”
As we reported in November, the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line built by Brazos on behalf of CoServ Electric. They say the line, which will run through heavily populated neighborhoods between the Dallas North Tollway and Farm-to-Market Road 423, would adversely affect property values and infringe on homeowner property rights. The campaign wants power lines buried, instead.
Their efforts have already had an impact: The power company’s application to the PUC next week is expected to include underground line options, in addition to the original proposal of an above-ground, 120-foot, double-circuit power line along either Stonebrook Parkway or Main Street in Frisco. The official name given by Brazos is the Stonebrook Transmission Line and Substation project. Jump to read more.
“We have come this far because we have partnered together [with the WFHOC], and have moved the football down the field a little more together,” Majorie said.
After Brazos files, the campaign has 45 days to organize their case and present it to the PUC, which they plan to do almost immediately, Majorie said. According to the Stonebrook project calendar, Brazos plans to file Jan. 15. The PUC then has up to a year to make its decision regarding transmission line route and if the line will be above-ground or below ground.
“When they file, we’ll be ready to challenge,” he said. “We are making significant headway in terms of how we organize as a grassroots campaign.”
WFHOC represents 55 HOAs with about 55,000 homeowners. The next step for the campaign is to hold meetings with individual HOAs to help them understand how they’re going to be represented in this process as the interveners.
“We’re in the process of gathering interveners and ensuring that their voices will be heard in front of the administrative law proceeding,” Majorie said. “A lot of the homeowners will have questions.”
The proposed line will start at an existing transmission line west of the Dallas North Tollway, and run between 2.7 and 4.1 miles, depending on the approved route, to a new substation to be built on King Road, west of FM423. Its purpose is to serve growth in Frisco, Little Elm and The Colony, one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. The project is currently slated to begin around March 2018.
Brazos estimates the cost of overhead transmission is approximately $1.5 million per mile, versus approximately $11.5 million per mile for underground transmission lines.
The Brazos website states: “PUC Staff has advised Brazos Electric…that it may not support an underground route unless the cost difference in underground versus overhead transmission is paid for by some source other than the Texas ratepayers. All ratepayers of Texas pay a share of the uplifted costs of transmission lines, and therefore such transmission costs must be allocated in a fair and equitable manner as determined by the PUC…Underground transmission is extremely rare in Texas because the costs are prohibitive. For that reason, Brazos Electric has never before proposed an underground transmission line.”
Any property owner whose land is crossed by any route alternative, or has a habitable structure within 300 feet, will be notified via mail after the PUC filing next week. If a route for the proposed transmission line is approved by the PUC, a formal notice (via first class mail) will be sent to the same landowners.
Will public outcry and the unprecedented partnership between realtors and HOAs affect the PUC’s decision? How will cost factor into the situation? We’ll keep an eye on this developing story. What are your thoughts?