A new energy transmission line for Entergy Arkansas will soon be located in Benton; however, a number of area residents have expressed some serious concerns about this type of project.
Benton Utilities' Electric Department has issued a formal news release about a new energy transmission line for Entergy Arkansas being located in the city.
The announcement, issued by Jeff Barnett, manager of the department, is being made primarily for informational purposes to alert Benton Utilities customers to anticipated construction related to the installation of the high-voltage line.
However, a number of area residents have expressed some serious concerns about this type of project.
This is not the first time such a project has been proposed.
Some time back Entergy officials announced plans to install a high-voltage overhead power line in the River Oaks subdivision area. Following a number of community meetings in which residents voiced strong objections to the project, Entergy officials announced that the line would not be going into that area.
During those sessions, which involved the intervention of then-Rep. Barbara Nix, it was brought out that serious health concerns have been raised about children living in areas of close proximity to such lines.
According to one study done in England, children who live close to high-voltage overpower lines may be at an increased risk of leukemia.
Other sources contend the health issues have been exaggerated.
According to the latest announcement from Benton Utilities, the planned location for the new transmission line, in one area, is adjacent to Bernard Holland Park, where youngsters play ball throughout the year.
No mention of health concerns is raised in the announcement, nor is there any reference to the fact that residents previously objected to the line. The release, in its entirety, states:
"In an effort to keep the citizens of Benton informed, the Benton Utilities Electric Department would like to notify you that T & D Transmission Solutions of Louisiana will be working in our city to construct a new energy transmission line for Entergy Arkansas. The employees of this company will be moving large equipment through our outlying streets and areas.
"There are no planned power interruptions associated with the construction of this transmission line.
"The areas covered will be primarily west from South Market Street at the South Benton Substation over to the river on Henry Street. Then the new line will be outside our service area on the west side of the Saline River extending to just north of Mulberry Salem Road on Highway 5 South; it will extend south from there crossing McGee Road and Salt Creek Road just north of Spuds Lane. It will cross West Longhills Road near Gabby Lane where it will be back inside our coverage area extending south to Sharon Road and east to the North Benton Substation.
"At this time, there is no time frame for completion of this project that has been made available to us. You will see paint markings and stakes in the areas where construction is to be completed, trucks bearing T & D Transmission Solutions logo on the side, flagmen and signs.
"This project is to connect our current North Benton Substation on Berwick to the South Benton Substation on South Market Street, which will help secure continual energy reliability to Benton Utilities electric customers.
"Please, be aware this is not a Benton Utilities Project, and anyone who may have questions regarding this is encouraged to contact Entergy Arkansas at 1-800-ENTERGY."
The release concludes with this statement: "At Benton Utilities, our customers are our priority, and we felt it imperative to notify each one of you of this work being done in our service area."
Among the property owners who have raised voiced objections about the project are Jimmy and Missy Partridge, who live at the end of Henry Street, adjacent to Sunset Lake. Their property runs alongside Bernard Holland Field.
Missy Partridge said Entergy officials have told them they will be "taking out about 50 of our trees (mainly oak) to put in this line," she said.
She noted that they were offered a total compensation of $250.
"There are kids that play out here on our property every day," she said. "We have butterfly gardens and flower gardens and we've had lots of outdoor classes here."
The couple created a rose garden behind their home, which is open to the public many times through the year.
Bob Eubanks, who was active in the earlier effort to prevent the installation of the line, noted that he pointed out that the planned area then included an Indian burial ground on the west side of the North Fork of the Saline River.
He pointed out Entergy's plans previously included building the 115kv power line over these historically significant places.
Enough opposition was raised at that time to halt the effort, but area residents now have learned that the project is once again on the table, but just in another location.
Mayor David Mattingly said Wednesday that he previously was informed that the current planned location for the line — its proximity to the ballpark — could jeopardize the city's ability to obtain parks grants in the future. However, he said he was assured by John Beneke, director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, that the city's ability to obtain grants has not been affected.
Mattingly also said he inquired about health risks and Beneke told him that he had no reservations about the line's location as far as health issues are concerned.
Earlier, in a May meeting of the City Council, the aldermen considered various easements offered by Entergy, while also expressing concern about moving the line back 30 or 40 feet because of its proximity to the ball fields in Holland Park.
The council asked Mattingly to request Tommy Aureli, who oversees the Transmission, Right-of-Way Acquisition for Entergy Arkansas, to review this area and determine if the line could be moved slightly to the south, closer to the property corner.
Mattingly said this was done.
Missy Partridge has said she and her husband were told that the line could be moved as much as 500 feet if the city makes that request. However, she said she later was told that "a city official told Entergy officials exactly where Benton wanted the line," and that ended up with the current location.
Mattingly said he made no such recommendation to Entergy or anyone else.
Terry McKinney, manager of Benton Utilities, emphasized that this is an Entergy Arkansas project and said he has no control of the line's location. The decision was made by Entergy Arkansas and included the approval of the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
Entergy Arkansas has eminent domain powers, McKinney noted, and Arkansas Public Service Commission regulates this.
Entergy decided on the site and reportedly says the line does not pose any danger to the public, and the PSC apparently agreed.