By Jade Ortego
Killeen Daily Herald
Several Maxdale and Ding Dong residents are opposing a proposed power line project for aesthetic and financial reasons.
"I live in the country; nobody out here wants this," said Sherry Fisher, a landowner with 450 acres of pristine ranch land that may be disturbed by the new towers.
Two weeks ago, Oncor sent newsletters to landowners whose land could be crossed by towers if a route that goes south of Killeen, through Bell County and into Burnet County, is chosen. The towers would cross the Lampasas River and be constructed through ranch land in Maxdale and Ding Dong.
The Newton-Killeen Project, as the proposed power structures are now called, would bring wind power energy from a Killeen switching station on Chaparral Road to a switching station in Kempner. There were originally two proposed routes: one that follows the Lampasas River to its south through Ding Dong, and one that follows the river to the north of it.
Bell County Commissioner of Precinct 4 John Fisher said he doesn't oppose the project, but supports the creation of an alternative route, one that would go through Killeen and around the edge of Fort Hood.
"That would be preferred by everybody south of Killeen," Fisher said.
Catharine Cuellar, an Oncor spokeswoman, said that the route would be chosen in late spring or early summer of 2010.
The plan must go before the state's Public Utilities Commission, which will ultimately decide the route. After that, there will be another public hearing when the citizenry can have input.
"The position we're taking is helping them choose the least intrusive routes," Fisher said. "We don't want to go on the record as opposing the project. This will be a good thing; it'll bring wind energy harnessed in the West Texas wind fields," he said.
Cuellar said that any issues the residents of Maxdale or Ding Dong might have are based on misconceptions arising from literature about the project being taken out of context.
"If you see the map that we mailed you and saw dotted lines all over it, that could alarm you because you thought that lines would be built everywhere, but there's only one going to be built," Cuellar said.
Cuellar stressed the benefits of having the power lines built in the Maxdale and Ding Dong areas.
"Building and maintenance will employ people; it will affect property taxes … [The power lines] will be an ongoing revenue stream for the communities," she said.
She said that Oncor is responding to the Texas legislative goal of increasing renewable energy. Cuellar stressed that Oncor hasn't chosen a route yet, and needs input from local residents.
"The more information we get and the sooner we get it, the more our proposal can reflect the communities' needs," she said. More information on the project can be found at www.oncor.com/transmissionprojects.
Sherry Fisher, a teacher at Ellison High School, helps run Homeowners Opposing the Oncor Power Line Project, a group that was created after the first meetings announcing the possible routes.
She said that the most southern route would run directly through her ranch and near her house.
The group meets to organize and lobby Oncor to choose the route through Killeen.
"These are the huge metal frame towers, they go through and totally wipe out everything in the line of the tower, all the trees and everything else," Fisher said. "There's also a lot of concern about the health effects of the high voltage."
John Fisher said that those opposed to the project should become involved with the proposal of alternative routes, or back the proposed route through Killeen. "It's no good to just say 'we don't want it here'; you have to also give input and help find a route that everyone can live with," he said.
The Landowners Opposing the Oncor Power Line Project is meeting at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Oakalla Volunteer Fire Department at Farm-to-Market 963 and FM 2657. For more information, go to www.savethelampasas.org.
Contact Jade Ortego at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553.