Thursday, May 16, 2013
Recreation in Benton County could take a huge hit from the proposed SWEPCO power line. Parks and the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36-mile, non-motorized corridor from Bentonville to Fayetteville, would be greatly damaged by SWEPCO’s proposed Shipe Road to Kings River 345 kV power line, the cities claim.
The City of Bentonville, which has filed to intervene in proceedings before the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC), said multiple properties owned by the city are in the path of the proposed routes. The proposed H route (the blue route) traverses the city’s trail system including the Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Trail System that consists of 19 miles of tracks used by thousands of bikers weekly.
“The facility has been featured in national mountain bike publications,” the City of Bentonville’s petition to intervene states. “In addition, the Bentonville Public School System utilizes the Slaughter Pen Trails as an educational component of physical education classes. The cutting of a clear swatch through this heavily wooded trail and public park would irreparably damage Bentonville’s trails, making it impossible to maintain a trail suitable for public use as designed in that location, thereby destroying a critical link in the existing park and trails system, which is vital not only to the citizens of Bentonville but also to the entire region due to its widespread use and inclusion in the Razorback Greenway.” The city of Springdale also has intervened, expressing concern about the impacts to the Razorback Regional Greenway which links together dozens of popular community destinations including six downtown areas, three major hospitals, 23 schools, the University of Arkansas campus, the corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart, JB Hunt and Tyson Foods, arts and entertainment venues, shopping areas, historic sites, parks, playground and residential areas. The portion of the Razorback Regional Greenway in conflict with proposed route 108 is scheduled to begin construction in June and be completed by late 2013 or early 2014.
Springdale’s application to intervene states that route 108 would also have an adverse impact on the Rabbit Foot Lodge, once owned by U.S. Congressman and Senator J. William Fulbright, which is on the National Register of Historic Properties.
Springdale has concerns that route 108, if selected, would not only interfere with the city’s use and enjoyment of its property, but diminish economic and aesthetic value of the city’s land, cause significant health and safety concerns, and interfere with the economic and aesthetic value of the city’s land. Springdale’s petition to intervene expresses concerns about the impact that clear cutting, construction and erection of power lines would have on the ecological balance and quality of Springdale Lake and surrounding areas.
Smaller towns along the proposed routes also have numerous objections. The town of Garfield, in comments opposing the power line, states that SWEPCO’s preferred route for the transmission line would have a detrimental impact on the health, economic and business well-being and future development of their town.
“What first should be noticed is that the proposed route directly bisects Garfield,” the objection states. “The route is not a necessity of design, only a chosen route best serving the economic interests of SWEPCO, without regard to the negative impacts upon our community.”
Garfield states that the transmission lines would be located within several hundred feet of Garfield Elementary, and that there are major concerns about children spending their days in close proximity to high power transmission lines and their radiation fields.
“As a note of emphasis, the query, ‘Negative Effect on Human from High Voltage Transmission Lines,’ brought over 6,100,000 results from a Bing search,” the letter signed by Mayor Laura Hamilton states. “Additionally, these proposed transmission lines will cut a swath directly through our residential areas including our largest residential subdivision, as well as traversing through prime commercial areas including our intended future commercial areas that will bounder the new relocation route of Highway 62. Our local real estate professionals have informed us that there are very substantial reductions in property values from close proximity to such high voltage transmission lines, and that many buyers will not even consider purchasing homes or businesses located within the areas surrounding these lines. Overall property devaluation could range form 20 to 100 percent, depending on the types and uses of properties, and on the prospective purchasers.”
The letter pleads with the APSC to dismiss the route from consideration, stating, “We believe our healthy, growing small community has a right to remain healthy, grow and thrive and that utility corridors need to go around and be out of the center. Just as we do not run extension cords across dance floors we see there have been serious omissions of design principal in the layout of route 33, and are asking for your help mitigating these errors.”
Gateway has also filed a petition to intervene in the proceedings stating that route 33 would cut through the Town of Gateway and dissect the town park used by local residents for exercise, family events and corporate gatherings. Legal title to the park property has a restriction that “precludes its conversion to other than public recreation/conservation use without the consent of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.”
“Constructing a power line through this public park is prohibited, absent a valid permit, contract, or other written agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Interior,” the petition to intervene states.
Gateway objected to the fact that no one with SWEPCO met with town officials to discuss the project prior to delivery of the notice by registered mail. Gateway’s petition to intervene said the power line would discourage businesses from locating on the US highway 62 corridor, thereby causing economic harm to Gateway from the loss of real property tax revenue and business license revenue. Gateway said the project would discourage tourism by ruining its small town appeal, and present unnecessary safety and health hazards. It states that by placing transmission lines so near the highway, SWEPCO is inviting more car accidents and risking power outages.
Gateway also objects to the use of herbicides for right-of-way maintenance, which the city fears could seep into Beaver Lake, the primary source of potable water for Northwest Arkansas.
The City of Cave Springs has also filed a petition to intervene stating the city is concerned about potential environmental impacts, potential health and safety risks, and the potential adverse impacts on both residents and businesses.
Another major intervener in Benton County is the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust, which has expressed concerns the interests of Wal-Mart may be adversely impacted by construction and generation of the proposed power lines.
Private property owners in Benton County also have numerous concerns. Larry Vendevoir of Bentonville has submitted a public comment that the proposed route 33 goes over the top of his personal residence and would halt any future development of his Creekstone Subdivision, “the only approved gated subdivision in Bentonville. This is years in the planning, years of work and millions of dollars that would be in jeopardy.”
Shawn Holland of Bentonville said he and his wife just started construction of their dream home April 10 on land they had spent years searching for, wanting to give their kids a place to have space and enjoy wildlife. “I beg you to never consider the route 108,” he said. “If you do, please know that you will have taken away every inch of my dream. Not even a little piece of this land will be left since it is 300 feet wide in the same direction that power lines are planned to run through.”
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