SWEPCO Power Line Project Set in Arkansas, Missouri Segments Up in the Air

CARROLL COUNTY, AR (KOLR) - A proposed transmission line from Southwestern Electric Power Company in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri is drawing some attention from one group in the Ozarks.

The project costs $123.3 million and stretches across four counties and two states. The purpose of the project is to eliminate a bigger problem in the utility industry if one area, in Arkansas or Missouri, loses power.

Those living in the area say it hurts the economy that thrives on just that. Pat Costner, director of Save the Ozarks, lives north of Eureka Springs and says the proposed path of a 345 kilovolt transmission line goes straight through her property.

"They are planning on running a clear cut 150 foot wide right-of-way across about 2,000 feet of my property."

SWEPCO's Route 109 begins in Centerton, Arkansas and goes north into Missouri before going back into Arkansas, ending in Carroll County at a new substation on the Kings River.

"Route 109 is about 56 miles in length and about 25 miles of that is in McDonald and Berry counties in Missouri," says a SWEPCO Spokesman said over the phone. Peter Main from SWEPCO says the project helps build reliability of smaller power lines systems in both states

"If the outages occurred on certain facilities, the other lines could be overloaded resulting in outages for customers." A power pole for that many volts stands 150 to 165 feet tall and requires the same amount of cleared land around it. Doug Stowe from Save the Ozarks says that puts a dent on the beauty of their land.

"It would have an affect on every tourist that drives into town, its not something that you can hide," says Stowe.

Main says the approved plan is longer because of the area in northwest Arkansas.

"Because of the congested Interstate 540 area in northwest Arkansas, we had the difficult situation of trying to outline a northern corridor." Earlier this year, the Arkansas Public Service Commission approved 55 percent of the path in their state. SWEPCO will begin educating those living in Missouri impacted by the path.

"The Missouri segments of the line are preliminary and still subject to further planning and public input and regulatory approval."

While Save the Ozarks does what they can to stop the project all together.

"The natural beauty here is the whole basis of the economy, people come here because it's beautiful," says Costner.

"You can't eat pretty but without pretty here we don't eat," says Stowe.

Main says SWEPCO has begun reaching out to legislators in Missouri and will host public hearings. Senator David Sater from Cassville has already introduced Senate Bill 839 to eliminate the eminent domain for utility companies, which means they would be required to get permission from every landowner on the route.

Save the Ozarks says it will file an appeal with the Arkansas Public Service Commission before next Tuesday and then the next step will be the Court of Appeals.

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