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Monopoles Versus Lattice Towers: LCRA Ignores Public's Request by Bill Neiman Since the beginning of the state's process to increase wind energy transmission from competitive renewable energy zones (CREZ) in West Texas to urban areas farther east, landowners and community members have been assured that their concerns would be heard and considered by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). Recent developments indicate that LCRA may only be paying lip service to the idea of public participation. Monopoles versus lattice towers is the issue. Communities affected by the construction and long-term effects of the transmission lines have requested monopoles be used to minimize impact on land use, wildlife and scenic views. Although the LCRA is still exploring alternative routes for the transmission line's longest segments, the authority has started ordering and stockpiling the components of lattice towers. There is already one 10acre yard located on FM 2169 near the Llano River at Junction. The utility is moving forward with lattice towers, despite requests from the public that monopoles be used as the primary support structure in the Hill Country. Before construction can begin, the route and the construction methods must be approved by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Since the PUC is not slated to consider the final route until July 6, 2010, it appears that LCRA has either put the cart before the horse, or that the public utility is determined to proceed with its plans, regardless of the ruling of the PUC or the input it has received from numerous city-county resolutions and the public at large. Lattice towers are freestanding framework towers that generally are used as radio towers or electricity pylons. The Eiffel Tower is the world's most famous example of a lattice tower construction. The towers proposed for use in the Hill Country will be up to 180-feet tall with each one requiring a 30' x 30' base. The multitude of elbows and joints make ideal raptor perches, which in tandem with wide, clear-cut rights-of way, create measurable negative impacts on wildlife. Monopoles are single, self-supporting, vertical poles with no guy wire anchors. They can be as tall as lattice towers, but their single stem makes them less obtrusive, and they require only an eight-foot base. Monopoles offer aesthetic benefits and definitely require a smaller easement for adequate placement. The monopoles designs include rounded edges, which eliminates raptor perches and protects them from accidental electrocution. Despite the obvious social and wildlife benefits of monopoles, LCRA maintains that single pole structures are cost prohibitive. Two projects under the control of subsidiaries of Florida Power and Light, the nation's largest utility provider, offers evidence to the contrary. The first subsidiary, NextEra Energy constructed a privately funded 225-mile high-voltage transmission line, running from Sweetwater to Comfort. Because the line traversed many scenic and ecologically sensitive areas, the company used monopoles as the primary support structure. Recently, Lone Star Transmission, another subsidiary of Florida Power and Light, has begun public outreach in preparation for constructing a 300-mile wind transmission line from northwest of Abilene to Corsicana. In its public information, the company says: "We plan to use aesthetically pleasing poles, which are scheduled to range from 120-foot to 140-foot, for the majority of the route. We anticipate each pole will be a single shaft capable of holding both circuits. This type of pole requires much less right-ofway than other types of transmission line structures." LCRA also maintains that it has to order the lattice tower components now or it won't be able to meet the 2013 construction deadline. Again, Lone Star Transmission tells a different story. In the same document,

Lone Star Transmission says: "We expect construction to begin in 2011 with completion planned in 2013."

It is mind boggling how two companies in the same business, working under the same constraints of time and budget, can come to different conclusions regarding the use of monopoles. Is it economics or attitude? Whether or not LCRA is listening, we Hill Country residents must speak up again ­ loudly. LCRA may choose to ignore us, but the PUC, the governor and our other elected officials do not have the luxury of insulated arrogance. We have to get their attention in Austin before it's too late. Remember, our beautiful Hill Country gets no do-overs. Monopoles have ecological and aesthetic benefits, and they should be part of the solution. The Clear View Alliance, Inc. is a non-profit formed to raise awareness and work to minimize unintended impacts from the construction of wind transmission lines. For more information on the Clear View Alliance, visit its website at: www.clearviewalliance.org.

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