These Frequently Asked Questions are intended to provide background information and address questions regarding the “Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (PEC) Wimberley Transmission Line Rebuild and Upgrade Project.”
What is PEC proposing to do?
PEC is proposing to rebuild and upgrade the existing 69 kV transmission line that connects the existing Highway 32 substation to the existing Wimberley substation (½ mile north of downtown square) in Hays County. This project will replace the existing line with a new 138 kV transmission line and retire the existing 138/69 kV autotransformer at the Highway 32 substation.
Why is this project needed?
The project will increase the capacity of the line serving the Wimberley substation to meet the area’s growing demand for electricity. The existing facilities are insufficient to meet the anticipated future growth of the area.
Are there other alternatives that would not require this project?
PEC has employed distribution alternatives in the past to delay rebuilding and upgrading the transmission line, including upgrading distribution lines, but the load growth in the Wimberley area has exhausted these options. To supply power to a growing area such as Wimberley, higher capacity transmission facilities are needed.
What will be the impact of the project on landowners along the route and in the community?
The project will require wider easements and taller transmission structures in order to construct the upgraded line. Additional structures may also be necessary dependent on the route selected by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT).
What will the structures look like?
There are several types of structures that may be utilized by PEC in this rebuild. Rights of way and cost constraints, coupled with public input and engineering information, will be used to decide the preferred transmission structure type. The PUCT will ultimately approve the structure type(s) and finish for the project. Specific structure heights will not be available until the approved route has been surveyed and the line is designed.
Is PEC required to receive PUCT approval to obtain a CCN for this project?
Yes. The commission requires, under certain conditions, that utilities seek approval prior to rebuilding and upgrading an existing transmission line:
(a) If the transmission line requires additional right of way, and
(b) the utility seeking approval has been unable to obtain written consent from the landowners whose property is crossed by the existing transmission facilities.
Although PEC has attempted to obtain the required written consents from all of the landowners currently crossed by the existing transmission line, PEC has not received all necessary consents. PEC has applied for an amendment for its Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN), which has been distributed to local media.
Why is PEC considering alternate segments and routes to an existing transmission route?
As a part of the CCN process, even for rebuild projects, the PUCT requires PEC to evaluate the existing route and any reasonable alternatives to that route. As a result, in addition to the existing transmission route, PEC retained the firm Power Engineers to develop a study area and evaluate other segments and routes. Power Engineers used available data including maps and aerial photos along with input from federal and state agencies and local officials to identify environmental and land-use constraints. Field reconnaissance was used to confirm constraints and identify preliminary routes within the study area. Several preliminary segments were identified and drawn to avoid, as much as possible, the known and anticipated constraints while also considering the requirements of the Public Utility Regulatory Act and PUCT rules. A map of these preliminary segments has been included in the invitation letters that were sent to potentially affected landowners.
How may I be affected if the route crosses my land?
Once the PUCT selects a route, PEC will work with each landowner to purchase an easement to construct, operate and maintain the new electric transmission line. New poles will be placed within the easement as determined by the final design of the transmission line. Periodic maintenance for vegetation management and line maintenance will be conducted.
How much does PEC pay for an easement?
PEC pays fair market value for transmission line easements. A copy of the fair market value report is provided to the landowner at the time an offer is made to purchase the easement.
How wide is the easement for the transmission line?
The proposed easements for the 138 kV transmission line will vary depending on design constraints from 60 feet to 100 feet wide, or 30 feet to 50 feet on either side of the centerline of the route to the edge of the easement.
Will PEC clear vegetation and trees from the entire easement area?
PEC will attempt to limit the impacts to the easement area on a landowner’s property as required by PUCT rules. Dependent on the route selected by the commission, PEC may only need to trim some vegetation and trees, but for other routes it may be necessary to clear the entire easement in order to facilitate construction of the transmission line.
Can PEC rebuild and place the transmission line underground in this area?
The cost of material, construction and additional cooling requirements make underground transmission lines four to 10 times more expensive than overhead lines. PEC is proposing to not rebuild the transmission facilities underground due to the significant increase in costs associated with underground transmission lines.
What is the CCN process?
After finalizing the proposed route alternatives based on community input, PEC applied to obtain a CCN from the PUCT. Approval of the CCN by the commission is necessary for PEC to undertake the rebuild and upgrade project. The commission will make the final decision to approve the application as well as choose the route on which the upgraded line will be constructed. All affected landowners who are listed in county records as owning property within 300 feet of the center of any proposed line segment have received notice from PEC of the filing of the CCN application with the commission.
Will I have an opportunity to voice my concerns?
The deadline for intervention in the proceeding was July 17, 2017. Complete CCN application and associated documents are available below:
- CCN Application Documents
- Sample Landowner Letter with Attachments
- Segment Map with Descriptions
- Primary Alternative Routes Map
What happens once the PUCT approves the project?
PEC will conduct land, environmental and cultural resource surveys to prepare the necessary plans and specifications to construct the transmission line after PUCT approval. PEC will prepare the right of way for construction once real estate negotiations and acquisition of the necessary right of way or construction rights is complete. After the right of way is prepared, construction equipment and workers will enter the right of way to construct the new transmission line. PEC does not anticipate any planned member outages for the construction of this project.
What is PEC’s timeline for this project?
PEC hosted an open house Feb. 23, 2017 and filed the application for the CCN in May 2017. The CCN process can take up to 365 days with an additional 30 days available at the PUCT’s discretion. Once the CCN is approved, PEC will begin design and easement acquisitions. This process is expected to be completed by December 2018. Construction is anticipated to begin in June 2019 and completed prior to the end of 2019.
What about electric and magnetic fields?
Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are found everywhere, especially where electricity is used, including household items (such as cell phones, hair dryers and microwave ovens), electrical equipment, communications equipment and power lines. Neither the state nor federal government have established any health standards relating to EMF. More information is available online.