The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 25, 2014

Power line’s route concerns Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo. — Last year, when controversy began brewing about a proposed 345,000-volt power line that would be built in the Ozarks, little attention was paid to Route 109.

Spanning 25 miles in Southwest Missouri and 31 in Northwest Arkansas, it was the route identified as the least preferred by the Arkansas-based Southwestern Electric Power Co.

McDonald County landowner Greg Pool said Friday he was shocked when Connie Griffin, administrative law judge representing the Arkansas Public Service Commission, gave SWEPCO the green light for Route 109.

“It was a punch in the gut,” Pool said.

He, his wife and children are three weeks away from completing construction on what he described as their dream home on 45 scenic acres near Bear Hollow.

“If 109 goes through, it will cut right across our front porch,” Pool said. “I’m not going to raise kids under a power line.”

The Pools’ property is among at least 136 privately owned properties that will be affected by Route 109, according to a list obtained  by the Globe from Pat Costner of Save the Ozarks.

The route was among six possible routes identified last year by SWEPCO. The company’s spokesman, Peter Main, said the Southwest Power Pool, of which SWEPCO is a part, mandated the utility build a line from Benton County through Carroll County by June 2016 to improve reliability to Arkansas customers.

SWEPCO’s preferred route, Route 33, ran from the Shipe Road Substation in Benton County to the proposed Kings River Substation in Carroll County. It went between Bella Vista and Bentonville, passed the southern edge of Pea Ridge Battlefield historic site, crossed the White River and passed by Lake Leatherwood and the northern edge of Eureka Springs.

One of the proposed routes would have passed within 1,000 feet from Thorncrown Chapel. One would have passed south of Beaver Lake, then tracked northeast toward the south edge of Eureka Springs.

More than 900 property owners would have been affected on the Arkansas side; all were notified by certified letters this past April of the proposed project, which has been planned by SWEPCO since 2007. No Missouri landowners were notified, Costner and several landowners said.

Regardless of the route, opponents said that constructing such a line would require clear-cutting a 150-foot right-of-way and erecting 150-foot towers every 800 feet.

According to Main, the 25 miles of line that would traverse Missouri on Route 109 would be in Barry and McDonald counties. When the route crosses the Arkansas border, it follows the same path as Route 33.

The statement Main provided the Globe said SWEPCO is “pleased that the (judge) has confirmed the need for the transmission project and selected a route for the facilities.”

“We know this was a carefully considered decision after a lengthy review process with extensive public participation,” the statement reads. “The Commission has the difficult task of balancing the interests of many stakeholders with the requirement to maintain a reliable electric system.”

The Arkansas Public Service Commission has 30 days — until Feb. 17 — to accept, modify or reject Griffin’s order. That’s the same date Pool is scheduled to move into his home.

“But it’s not just about me,” Pool said. “This is about all of us. There are a lot of people this is going to affect.”

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