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By Dennis Seid/Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Construction of a new transmission line between Union and Lee counties isn’t set to begin until the summer of 2014, but the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to get the public’s input now.

On Thursday, the nation’s largest utility company hosts an open house at the BancorpSouth Conference Center in Tupelo.

The come-and-go meeting is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and TVA representatives will provide information, take questions and accept comments for the proposed project.

“We want to hear from the public now, even though it won’t be operational until the summer of 2016,” said Chris Austin, the project manager.

TVA has proposed six routes linking the Union 500-kilovolt substation near Sherman and the Tupelo 161-kV substation in Fairpark. The above-ground routes run 12 to 15 miles long.

The new 161-kV transmission line would create a third connection between the two.

“It’s a reliability issue,” Austin said of the project.

During a severe weather event or unusually high demand, a transmission line can be affected. In the case of the current Union-Lee connection setup, if one line has a problem, the other can take up the load. However, an overload can happen. Having another transmission line –the proposed project –would offer another backup to keep electricity running.

“The new transmission line is needed to improve the electric reliability of the area by providing an additional connection between two substations,” TVA says on its website. “The additional connection would relieve possible overloading on existing lines.”

Electricity is transmitted at high voltages to reduce the energy lost during long-distance transmission. Power is typically transmitted through overhead power lines, and in this proposed project, the new transmission line would consist of steel pole structures centered on a 100-foot-wide right-of-way. Some of the possible routes share right-of-way with existing lines.

Austin said TVA looked at several factors before determining the options for the routes.

“A major effort was made to report things like development, environmental issues, existing structures, other underground utilities and the Natchez Trace Parkway,” he said. “We also looked at archeological factors.”

TVA will provide large maps at the open house. The maps will show the proposed routes and what is affected.

Austin expects a good turnout for the event.

Among them will likely be Saltillo Mayor Bill Williams, who said his city prefers TVA take the northern-most route for the new transmission line.

“I’ve talked to several of the land owners that are out here on this side of town that will be impacted,” he said. “None of them want to have those transmission lines coming across their property. I’ve talked to folks who live near them and they’re not interested in having them come through their neighborhoods.”

Austin said TVA will weigh all comments, in addition to considering the other factors, in determining the most feasible route for the new transmission line.

TVA says it is interested in receiving comments on how the project “may affect the environment and/or historic properties and any other issues associated with this proposal. Comments will be used in reaching a decision on location of the preferred route for the line.”

“We’d like as many people to come as possible to the open house, but for those who can’t, they can mail or email us,” Austin said.

Comments can be sent to Chris Austin, 1101 Market Street (MR4G), Chattanooga, TN 37402-2801 or email newtransline@tva.gov.

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