LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —
An administrative law judge has approved a utility’s plan to build a high-voltage transmission line in northern Arkansas, despite fierce opposition by some residents who say it will sully the beauty of the Ozarks.
Judge Connie Griffin recommended that Southwest Electric Power Co. construct its 56-mile transmission line in Benton and Carroll counties. The judge recommended Route 109, which was one of several options for the line.
Route 109 was the northernmost route and crosses into southern Missouri for about 25 miles, meaning the plan will also require approval from Missouri regulators.
The judge wrote that Route 109 wasn’t the cheapest or shortest route, but that it was reasonable because it would have less residential and “aesthetic impact.”
“While Route 109 is longer, it crosses more undeveloped lands with larger parcels,” Griffin wrote. “As such, Route 109 has a lower residential proximity and visibility, crosses fewer parcels and fewer major roads.”
The utility said the transmission line must be built because a study from Southwest Power Pool identified the possibility of future violations and overloaded power lines in the area. An attorney for SWEPCO, David Matthews, said at a weeklong hearing in August that the utility is required to build transmission projects within its service area if Southwest Power Pool determines they are necessary. Southwest Power Pool is a regional transmission organization that is responsible for planning electrical transmission needs for 6 million households in nine states.
The group Save the Ozarks said it would appeal the judge’s ruling, which must also be considered by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday.
Anyone wishing to contest the judge’s ruling has until early February to object, said John Bethel, chairman of the Public Service Commission. An objection would prompt a review by the three-member panel.