Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987 Page: 29
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construction can begin, the co-op is required
to file a certificate of need with the
Public Utilities Commission. Two years
after the board approved the project, the
co-op has yet to do so.
A recent announcement by the co-op
complicated the economic issue. Citing
losses on the part of its irrigatorcustomers,
a decrease in oil-field activity
and user conservation, the co-op plans to
increase rates throughout the district by
an average of 20.26 percent. Why then,
asks Love, is the co-op still planning to
build a power line and borrow money that
the whole district will have to shoulder
the burden of repaying? If there is not an
immediate need, why not repair the line
and wait for a healthy economy to undertake
such a project?
"Without exception," says Love, "if
there was something going on down here
in terms of development that would really
require tremendous additional electrical
power, especially something that was
revenue-producing for the area, I don't
think any one of the landowners would
have any violent objections if there was
no other way to do it. But we can't find
that. We can't identify anything that's
going on down here that requires any tremendous
amount of power. We can't find
any single person or entity that will say,
'We're going to do something that's going
to require more power.' So we don't think
the need is there."
Economics aside, the environmental
issues loom large: once built, the power
lines are there to stay, and while threatened
plant and animal life can be quantified,
the damage to the view cannot.
The forty-foot existing poles are barely
noticeable; the proposed ninety-four steel
ones would be an eyesore.
"I think all of us have become much
more conscious of our scenic value in the
last twenty years," says Ben Love. "That's
one of the greatest ingredients in our land
values here. This is not particularly productive
land in terms of agriculture or
anything else. We have to realize that the
thing this land is best suited for is looking
at. The scenic value has become foremost
in our minds."
Also concerned with the potential
damage to the views, the Texas Historical
Commission, which monitors the historical
and cultural aspects of projects with
federal involvement, recommended more
studies. "We have several concerns. Some
of them are the archaeological sites that
lie within the path of the proposed transmission
lines. And the other concern
that we have is Big Bend National Park
which is a national park because it is scenic,
because of its natural attributes.
There are provisions in the federal law
that anything that is a visual intrusion to
a [federal] park must be considered. The
transmission line would be a visual intrusion,"
says LaVerne Herrington, deputy
state historic preservation officer for the
The issue of an external threat to a federal
park is unclear according to Big Bend
Park superintendent Jim Carrico. Though
Congress debated the issue several years
ago, national parks and the federal government
still have no jurisdiction over
neighboring private lands.
Ben Love would like to keep it that
way. "I think we all realize that if we don't
do a good job of [protecting the environment],
and we keep nationwide
having [unchecked development] spring
up next to these national parks, that at
some point the federal government is
going to step in and take a stronger stand
on national park external protection policies
and start regulating us. We'd rather
But more than anything, Love, Combs,
and the other landowners involved want
to be able to preserve the land for future
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987, periodical, Spring 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45438/m1/29/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.