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Wind Turbine Controversy In Texas Hill Country

By Mose Buchele, KUT News

Dallas, TX –

A plan to bring energy from West Texas wind turbines to population centers in East Texas has some Hill Country residents crying foul. KUT's Mose Buchele has details on what's got them worried.

Robert Weatherford lives just outside of Fredricksburg on the road to Enchanted Rock State Park. He says the view from the popular natural site could be ruined by some unwanted development.

Weatherford: "Some people refer to them as robots some people refer to them as skeletons, but they are the very large lattice work structures."

Those structures are towers for power lines that The Lower Colorado River Authority will install to meet a state government mandate to increase the renewable wind energy used in Texas. The towers can get to be about 180 feet tall, and Weatherford worries they could drive down property values and disrupt the natural beauty of the hill country, He's not alone.

"It's not just me or a couple ranchers out here who are talking about this."

Bill Neiman is a resident of Kimble country which neighbors Weatherford's Gillespie county.

Neiman: "We've had several meetings that have packed the Kimble county courtroom, it seats 250 people."

So Neiman and Weatherford have each formed groups critical of the LCRA's plans. Those plans are not in the final stages. Right now the LCRA is charting different potential paths for the power lines, before it recommends a preferred route to the Public Utility Commission. But Nieman says those different options can be divisive

Nieman: "The way it was kind of proposed is to pit neighbor against neighbor, well if it comes this way it comes onto me, if it goes that way it goes onto him."

Niemen fears one of the routes could put a tower right over his business.

Umshad: "You can't make everybody happy with these transmission projects. Most people are understanding of the reason they're needed, but still nobody wants to see them on their property is what it comes down to."

Krista Umshad Ramirez is a spokesperson for the LCRA. She says LCRA has gone to great lengths to get community input about the powerlines. But some of the suggestions, like one proposal to use existing powerlines, or another to use less intrusive towers, face a familiar obstacle: the financial bottom line.

Umshad: "So you could have the members of rate payers of all different parts of the state who are members of ERCOT could be paying for the additional costs of that transmission line."

LCRA will make its recommendation for a preferred powerline route to the Public Utility Commission in October.