The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 28, 2014

Our View: ‘Punch in the gut’

— There are 136 property owners whose land could be affected if the Arkansas-based Southwestern Electric Power Co. builds a line through Southwest Missouri.

Not one of them has been formally contacted. It’s likely that even today more than half of the property owners have no idea that a proposed 345,000-volt power line could be running through their land.

That’s because little attention was ever paid to Route 109. It was the route least preferred by SWEPCO. So little thought was given to that route, in fact, that landowners living in McDonald and Barry counties were never made aware the route was even being contemplated.

Of the six possible routes identified last year by SWEPCO, five of them pass through Arkansas. According to Peter Main, SWEPCO’s spokesman, the Southwest Power Pool mandated the utility build a line from Benton County through Carroll County by June 2016 to improve reliability to Arkansas customers.

SWEPCO preferred a route that would have run between Bella Vista and Bentonville. That route was loudly protested because it passes through the southern edge of Pea Ridge Battlefield, crosses the White River and passes by Lake Leatherwood and the northern edge of Eureka Springs. The more than 900 property owners who would have been affected on the Arkansas side were all notified of the proposed project by certified letter almost a year ago.

So what happened to Missourians’ letters?

It’s a good question to contemplate because of a recent ruling by an administrative law judge representing the Arkansas Public Service Commission. She gave the go-ahead to the build the route through 25 miles of Missouri and 31 in Northwest Arkansas.

One landowner told the Globe that the ruling was like a “punch in the gut.”

We must wonder why Missouri landowners have been treated so differently in this process. We have learned that it is unprecedented for a non-public utility to construct a line through Missouri, particularly one that will not directly serve Missouri customers. SWEPCO has not yet filed any paperwork with the Missouri Public Service Commission. Once that is done, public hearings will be set for property owners.

State and county leaders representing Southwest Missouri are angry about the chosen route. We urge them to make their voices heard quickly.

We respect that Arkansas residents said, “Not in my backyard.” Missourians should have the same opportunity.

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