In Frisco, It's Pesky Residents Versus Brazos in a Fight Over High-Voltage Power Lines

Categories: Environment

Trevor Huxham
Intersection of SH-289 (Preston Road) and FM-3537 (Main Street), Frisco, from the skies
Frisco residents worried about a power company's plan to install high-voltage power lines above ground next to their homes have been frustrated by the company's handling of their complaints in recent weeks, but this morning they can celebrate a momentary victory: Their city council last night passed a resolution opposing the current plan.

Things ramped up last week, when Brazos Electric chose to have a little informal chat with locals about the company's proposal to install a 138,000-volt transmission line in Frisco, on any of four potential locations. But the public didn't exactly get a ton of time to weigh in on the plan.

"They informed us that our only opportunity as a public to speak with them was this past Tuesday before [Brazos Electric] moved foward with their plan," Kendall Meade, the Pearson Farms HOA president, tells Unfair Park. ("Moving forward" for the company means submitting the proposals to the the Public Utilities Commission for approval.)

One of the things that frustrated Meade was that the public's only opportunity to "speak" wasn't really a public meeting. Instead, residents who wanted answers had to wait in a long line to individually ask questions of the Brazos consultants.

"The specific question asked by most people was if the [power] lines could be buried ... they told us that they could, but it was cost-prohibitive, and they would not even do a study" to figure out what the costs would be, Meade says.

The Dallas Morning News had a peppier take on what transpired. The paper decribed the meeting as having "a come-and-go format, with maps and charts on display and representatives from Brazos available to answer questions one to one."

But Frisco residents ruined the occasion by showing up and attempting to ask those questions: "The huge crowd overwhelmed staff members spread around the Frisco Heritage Center's historic depot."

But to answer the original, more important question: Why can't power lines just be buried?

That's an issue that other municipalities and electric companies have been debating for years. A 2010 study by a consulting firm found that Washington, D.C., could prevent more than 1,000 outages a year by burying its lines, but that it would cost companies an extra $5.8 billion. And many local officials are arguing that underground lines are an investment worth making. After Superstorm Sandy knocked out the power for eight million New Yorkers last year, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn pressed Con Edison to put more of its lines underground. (While Manhattan buries its lines, other part of New York City don't. )

State Representative Pat Fallon, a former Frisco City Council member, told WFAA that Frisco has an ordinance requiring lines to be buried but that "unfortunately, that ordinance can be ignored by state laws."

Last night, with the chamber packed with residents, the council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the proposed routes and agreed to hire a law firm to study the issue, because when in doubt, fire up the Lawyer Meter. The News reported that other routes could be complicated by land-ownership issues or a new batch of worried residents.

"We support an alternative route," Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said, according to the paper, "but somebody will be impacted somewhere."

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Wah, wah, wah.  Poor Frisco.  Have the city pay to bury the lines, or perhaps hit up Jerry Jerkwad Jones for a loan.  No doubt he'd give you great terms.


Another avenue: Complain to the FCC about the radio noise generated by their existing powerlines. Tollway and Eldorado is an RF noise mess. Bring an AM radio there to verify for yourself.




Flooding, Earthquakes are all reasons to also take into account when burying power lines underground, and although wind might knock out a power line, which is then a lot easier to fix, fixing underground power takes longer and is more expensive.

What did Frisco think as they grew??

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

if frisco wants it buried, let frisco pay the cost to bury it.  Maybe take it from the school fund, like they did for the cowboys.  


When it came up for discussion in our area we were told it added about $1 million extra per mile; also, my understanding is that burying lines protects the lines from wind damage, but makes it more prone to flood damage. So, if approximately $1 mil./mile is a roundabout industry figure, then I can't blame Brazos for refusing to consider a study ($$) to do something that they know will be cost prohibitive.


@dmtrousd Pretty much this. ^ 

1) Frisco has grown so big so fast that they will run out of power very soon. So if brownouts/blackouts make for good suburban livin', then Frisco is well on it's way.

2) Because they've grown so fast, all the easiest and least obtrusive routes disappeared overnight. What is a nice open field one day turns into a subdivision the next and eliminates a simple and inoffensive means to deliver power. 

3) It IS cost prohibitive to bury them, but even if Brazos wanted to, the other power companies would tell Brazos to pound sand. (I may be off a little on the exact workings of how and why, but I can give you the broad strokes.) Since it is extremely expensive to put in power lines no matter how you do it, AND because Texas is a huge state, AND because you can't predict where more lines will be needed, the multiple power providers in Texas act as a collective and pool their monies to build transmission lines. This smooths the costs, whether it's across 100 miles of Amarillo plains or 15 miles of dense Frisco suburbia. Otherwise they couldn't ever afford to build lines at all - for big or small communities. This however means that the collective has a say in how much can be spent on installing lines. If Brazos buried every line they built (at 10x the cost of the other companies costs), well, they'd be out of the collective and broke. So if Frisco wants them buried, then they can bury them. I mean, if they just gave Jerry Billionaire Jones 100+ million to build a freakin' indoor practice football stadium, then they should be able to drop the coin to bury their own lines, right?   

Please note: I don't work for any electrical company or anything related to the industry, and I don't live in Frisco. [Although I do find Jerry Jones to be the worst owner in football, as he refuses to fire the worst GM in football.] So I really have no dog in this hunt as the saying goes. But I recognize whining when I read it in biased article like this.

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