By Jade Ortego
Killeen Daily Herald
To the dismay of rural landowners, on Oct. 7, Oncor Electric Delivery filed with the Public Utilities Commission their preferred route for a 31-mile-long line of electric towers through rural Bell and Lampasas counties.
Local residents protested the placement of the towers, each 120 to 150 feet tall and 160-feet-wide, since Oncor announced the Newton-Killeen project by mail in early July.
Oncor sent a map to residents that live or own property within 500 feet of any proposed route.
Oncor announced that it would choose a preferred route from many marked on the map they mailed and file it with the PUC, which will make the final decision on the route this spring.
Oncor ultimately chose the longest route on its map. It would begin at an existing switching station on Featherline Road and north of Chaparral Road in Killeen and end at a new switching station west of Kempner in Lampasas County, west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 190 and Farm-to-Market 2313.
"It crosses the river in two places. It really doesn't make as much sense as a northern route," said county commissioner John Fisher, whose property will border the preferred route for 40 acres.
In July, many residents were enraged by the news that their land, which had been in some families for more than 100 years or hosts bald eagles and other endangered species, could now be bisected and bulldozed.
They formed groups and committees, like Save the Lampasas River Inc. and the Maxdale/Ding Dong Association, to encourage others affected by the potential routes to speak to Oncor and political officials to keep the towers out of what they consider pristine wilderness.
Save the Lampasas Inc. also held a fundraiser for legal fees to challenge Oncor's route when it goes to the PUC.
Fisher, who lobbied to have lines built on already-developed areas, mostly within Killeen, said he will continue to fight the placement of the towers.
"I will take every opportunity I can to voice my opinion as a citizen about the concerns I have about the route they took," he said.
Oncor communications specialist Catherine Cuellar said affected landowners can remain involved with the selection process.
Residents can still lobby the PUC to affect their decision in the spring, she said.
"Even when the PUC decides where this will be built … if the lines cross your property, we'll work with you as to where on your property our facilities will go," for example building the line to avoid homes, or directly across property to make the line shorter, Cueller said.
Cuellar said the route was chosen based on a numbers of factors and all of the input the company got from residents of affected areas.
"All the questionnaires, all the public meetings, all the contractor work, peer research, environmental impact, community values … we care about all these stakeholders. The routes were prioritized considering all the input we received through this process," she said.
Maps that show the preferred route can be viewed at the Killeen, Harker Heights and Kempner city halls and the Copperas Cove public library.
Contact Jade Ortego at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.