Texas Transmission Route to Avoid Crossing Scenic Canyon

Michael Giberson

Last week the Texas PUC approved routes for the northwesternmost link in the CREZ transmission expansion, choosing one of the longest of several possible transmission routes in order to avoid crossing parts of Palo Duro canyon.  The canyon is the nation’s second longest and includes a state park.  None of the routes would have crossed the state park, but some proposed lines may have been visible from locations within the state park.  Property owners in the north end of the canyon campaigned against routes that would have crossed their land. The longer route is estimated to cost $34 million more than the cheapest route, with downstate electric power consumers paying the bill.

Of course even if transmission owners relied on economic incentives to gain consent of landowners, rather than backstopping the regulatory route selection process with implicit threat of eminent domain, it seems likely that landowners in the north canyon would have refused. But the process might have been much less controversial and the final route may have been cheaper than the one selected.

MORE: The Amarillo Globe-News story in the first link above includes this map of the proposed routes. A related story appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week.

The Lighthouse formation in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
The Lighthouse formation in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas (Links to Texas State Park website).

9 thoughts on “Texas Transmission Route to Avoid Crossing Scenic Canyon

  1. Environmentalists have a marvelous tendency to eat their young. It limits the damage they can do. If they can stop a wind turbine from being installed, it is all to the good. Even if the reason they are doing it is very bad.

  2. The routes over the Palo Duro Canyon were actually more expensive in the end.

    Short routes over the Canyon proposed by PBS&J were eliminated by the PUC because they cut diagonally across property lines for the entire length of the route and violated PUC guidelines. They should never have been proposed.

    Longer routes that complied with PUC guidelines that crossed the canyon were comparable in length and price to the northern route and probably would have likely exceeded the cost of the northern route due to engineering constraints. There may also have been helicopter maintenance costs. In addition, they had the most visual impact on the State Park area.

    Also, if a Canyon route had been chosen, 30 to 50 miles of the northern route would have still been built, charged back to the ratepayers, to access the wind farms in Deaf Smith, Oldham and Carson Counties that will be built on the northern route and need to interconnect with the line. This would have substantially increased the cost to the ratepayers in the end.

    Lastly, it is completely unnecessary to cross the Canyon with these lines. All of the ERCOT’s capacity for wind could easily have been developed without crisscrossing over the Palo Duro Canyon.

    So why advocate for the unnecessary destruction of one of our state’s greatest treasures? People who want to defend these areas are not environmentalists, per se, but people who appreciate remarkable geologic wonders, natural beauty, natural habitats, a natural place to hike, an extraordinary view. Do people just not want to have any natural recreational areas to preserve for the future? No appreciation left for the environment, natural beauty or geologic wonders, at all?

    It’s like a salivating, slobbery Pavlov’s dog knocking over the china cabinet, scrambling over the dinner table, spreading broken dishes and scraping muddy footprints all over the furniture and floor, to get to his bowl full of the newest brand of dog food in the utility room. Why not place the bowl by the dog and feed the dog outside, for posterity’s sake?

  3. In this case, the objectors are not ‘environmentalists’ per se, just land owners in an area of somewhat distinctive natural beauty who don’t want to have to see transmission lines from their property. And since the decision was, in essence, to loop north around the city of Amarillo rather than south, but still build the line, no future wind turbines were harmed in the making of this decision.

  4. Michael,

    The Palo Duro Canyon is much more than a “somewhat distinctive” area of natural beauty. It is a one-of-a-kind, geologic wonder, the head of which lies north of the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. As I stated in my comment, the landowners are protecting much more than just their own personal view. They are protecting the ability of people to enjoy the Canyon’s awe-inspiring beauty, its history, its extraodinary features, for years into the future. Currently, people from all over the world enjoy the north Canyon’s beauty at the Elkins Ranch, which holds jeep tours and cowboy breakfasts. Large commercial infrastructure such as a power line would permanently ruin the ability to have this recreation and enjoy this Canyon in the future.

    Also, we are not an environmental group, per se, as I noted, but we care a great deal about the natural habitat, wildlife and environment of the north Canyon. The lines could pose a danger to this environment if an aircraft collision were to occur with the lines and start a fire in the Canyon. We have a great deal of aircraft recreation in the area by sightseers.

    Again, it would be incredibly wasteful and short-sighted to unnecessarily destroy this Canyon. Many people value the Palo Duro Canyon, even if some don’t. Over 1626 people signed the petition to spare the north Canyon of these lines. More care should be taken in the proposals of routes for these projects.

  5. “In this case, the objectors are not ‘environmentalists’ per se, just land owners in an area of somewhat distinctive natural beauty who don’t want to have to see transmission lines from their property.”

    Just like the Kennedy family. They are “environmentalists” with a dog in the fight.

  6. Fat Man,

    Like I said, we care a great deal about the environment within the Canyon and, yes, we have a dog in the fight–the Palo Duro Canyon. It’s not necessary to destroy it. You and Michael don’t care about the Canyon, this much is clear. But many people do.

  7. And Fat Man, I would also add that we are pretty conservative group up here. Not much like the Kennedy family. We believe in private property rights, first and foremost. On that note, I think Michael’s idea about offering economic incentives to landowners, at least those in the SPP grid who won’t be served by these lines, is a valid idea. ERCOT’s lines in the SPP grid should be bargained for and purchased without the use of eminent domain. They still wouldn’t have crossed the north Palo Duro Canyon, but they could have found routes, I believe. And I doubt there would have been much controversy.

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