Friday, February 3, 2023

Argyle, Northlake working hard to deter Oncor transmission line

The towns of Argyle and Northlake are working together and seeking help from nearby towns and government officials at all levels to keep Oncor from forcing a disruptive transmission line through residential areas in their towns.

Map of proposed routes for Oncor’s proposed Ramhorn Hill-Dunham 345 kV Transmission Line Project.

Oncor Electricy Delivery Company recently informed area residents that it is proposing a new transmission line from a new switch outside Rhome, in Wise County, to a proposed switch southeast of the FM 1171/Hwy 377 interchange in west Flower Mound. The company is considering many different routes for this transmission line — dubbed the Ramhorn Hill-Dunham 345 kV Transmission Line Project — including some that would cut through developed areas in Argyle and Northlake. Residents said they were concerned about the impact a transmission line would have on their property values, the environment and “prudent avoidance of EMF exposure.”

“Oncor throws a ton of routes on the wall, like spaghetti, to see what sticks,” Northlake Mayor David Rettig said.

The two northern-most routes would have severe impacts on both Argyle and Northlake. The three routes below them avoid Argyle, but cut through Northlake.

“We recognize this line has to be built, and Northlake can’t avoid this,” Rettig said. “As you go south, it’s less impactful. It’s very clear that the more southern routes are more direct and less impactful, and they have a lot of plausibility.”

Rettig and Argyle Mayor Bryan Livingston have come up with an alternate route that could be less disruptive than any of the ones that Oncor could propose. It’d be more direct and supported by nearly 100% of residents, Rettig said.

Special Council Meeting

Part of the transmission line route that Argyle and Northlake are pitching to Oncor, image courtesy of Bryan Livingston.

The Argyle Town Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss the proposed line and make a plan of action to oppose the routes in Argyle. Rettig attended the meeting and spoke about a new route that he and Argyle Mayor Bryan Livingston are suggesting to Oncor that would lessen the impact on both towns. It would cross I-35W south of FM 1171, stay south of the Northwest Regional Airport and avoid residential areas in Northlake and Flower Mound.

“This route is sound, it’s plausible, but it does require some coordinated effort to accomplish,” Rettig said during the meeting. “It avoids all of our residential communities, it skirts the major development plans across the entirety of the breadth of Northlake, it optimizes the route coming from Fort Worth into Northlake and it completely avoids Argyle and Justin.”

Northlake Mayor David Rettig

The issue with this route, the reason why Oncor isn’t proposing it, is that it cuts through land operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for Lake Grapevine and some of the land around it.

“Oncor cannot get any help from the Corps of Engineers,” Rettig said. “That said, elected leaders can,” adding that the alternate route would have a minimal impact on a small part of hunting land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Both towns have launched a coordinated effort to unify with neighboring towns, county leadership and state and federal legislators to oppose the proposed routes and seek approval from the Corps of Engineers for the new route they’ve come up with. They’re going to draft resolutions to formally oppose the most disruptive routes and other resolutions to formally support ones the least disruptive ones. They’re asking all residents in the affected areas to provide their feedback to Oncor, as well.

“The more you create a rock that cannot be broken here in Argyle, you’re going to help everybody in this process,” Rettig said, adding that Hillwood and Jack Furst can be allies in this case as well, because they likely don’t want the proposed transmission line routes to affect their properties, either.

Conference Call with Oncor

Late Wednesday, Rettig, Livingston and Argyle Town Administrator Erika McComis joined a conference call with Oncor engineering and legal staff, including the project manager for the Dunham – Ramhorn Hill line project. In that call, Livingston said Oncor representatives “were highly interested in the sketch of the alternative route jointly developed by Northlake and Argyle” that was discussed in Tuesday’s council meeting.

Argyle Mayor Bryan Livingston

“The southern route the two cities proposed will hinge on elected official support above the municipal level,” Livingston said. “Oncor does not have the authority to propose a route that crosses U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, as the alternative route does at two locations. Oncor acknowledged that if Argyle and Northlake secure federal political support, consent by the Corps would become possible.”

Livingston said Oncor will begin preliminary planning on the alternate route, “based on our commitment to move ahead with contacting our elected representatives in Washington, with the support of the Denton County and state elected representatives who have already pledged their support to working with us on a solution.”

Local and county officials are reaching out to Michael Burgess, Denton County’s representative in the U.S. House, and both Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow for the alternate route south of FM 1171.

During the conference call, Livingston said he and Rettig discussed the public feedback deadline, and they “were able to secure a commitment that comments received by Jan. 20 would all be included in the study and would affect decisions about which routes are ultimately proposed.” This was important because Oncor notified residents who would be affected by any of the proposed routes during the week of Thanksgiving, and gave them until Dec. 31 to provide feedback.

“The biggest problem, by far, is that Oncor did not give notice to the town and it seemed unreasonable to everybody that they would drop this notification letter Thanksgiving week and you’d have until New Year’s Eve to comment,” Livingston said. “They’ve agreed that any comment they receive until the 20th will count.”

Next Steps

The town of Argyle has set up a webpage with information and updates on the proposed transmission line. Livingston also said that concerned residents will meet again Saturday morning at Argyle Town Hall to develop neighborhood and individual responses to share with Oncor.

Residents can voice their opposition or support for the proposed transmission line routes by filling out the Oncor questionnaire forms here.

“The most important thing is to get as many questionnaires filed with Oncor as possible,” Livingston said.

Rettig said that if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will sign off on their alternate route in the next couple of weeks, Oncor could add the route to its map of proposed routes. He added the cooperation between Northlake and Argyle has been “unprecedented” and “really something special.”

“This is good governance in action,” Rettig said.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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