MANSFIELD - After two months of discussions with protesting residents, Georgia Transmission Corporation has announced it will proceed with building a new transmission power line along a 3.2 mile long route that cuts through a residential area of Mansfield.
GTC considered several alternative routes proposed by Mansfield Against Power Line Encroachment, or MAPLE, a steering committee of concerned citizens, said Spokeswoman Jeannine Haynes.
“We found that in every case the alternatives required us to impact more private property and clear more trees,” Haynes said. “We were hopeful we could identify an alternative route, but, in the end, we could not say those alternatives were better.”
The approved plan involves erecting large concrete poles and running power lines through the back streets of the town to a proposed substation at Mill Pond Road and Ga. Highway 11. The lines will not go through the center of town, but the poles will run between houses. According to GTC, the transmission lines will require easements from residents of 25 to 125 feet wide, including the right to cut and remove dead or diseased trees within 10 to 30 feet of the right of way.
A press release issued by GTC states that the alternative routes would require up to 25 additional acres of easements on private property and clearing of as much as 9 additional acres of forest, while running up to 1.4 miles longer and costing approximately $1 million more than the original route.
"Our job is to keep the lights on and anytime you place a line it is a balancing act between the wishes of the community and the electrical needs of the area," Haynes said.
"Our route has the least amount of overall impact on the community and the environment. In fact, for every acre of private land that we have to acquire for an easement we'd have to acquire at least 2 acres in each of the MAPLE alternatives. For every acre of undisturbed forest that we need to cut, we'd have to cut at least 2 acres in the MAPLE alternatives.
"We have to look at the big picture and that means minimizing the impact to private property, on environmental areas, dividing as few parcels as possible and being mindful of cost."
MAPLE members dispute GTC's claims of cooperation, however, responding that, "the decisions makers at GTC have grossly miscalculated the resolve of our citizenry to fight what we feel is an ill-conceived decision concerning the expansion of transmission lines through our historic community. The initial proposal put forth by GTC, which has now become their confirmed route, proves that there was absolutely no desire to address the concerns of the residents of Mansfield."
GTC said the line is needed to provide more reliable power in Newton and Jasper counties. But MAPLE said Mansfield is the area that will be most impacted, with no benefit. The routes proposed by MAPLE are existing easements already occupied by power distribution lines, according to the group's press release. MAPLE stated the property owner most directly impacted by the steering committee's proposal was willing to allow power lines to be constructed on her property. Also, MAPLE's suggested route will impact 11 residences versus the 27 impacted by GTC's route.
"GTC is prepared to continue forward with their intrusion, and are prepared to wield the weapon of eminent domain against all who resist," MAPLE stated. "It is obvious that GTC’s main objective is to bring their project in at the lowest financial cost, while ignoring the cost incurred by the individuals whose lives will be most negatively impacted. But they need to hear the clear message, that our steering committee will continue to make a stand for the City of Mansfield and will not roll over and accept this decision. The citizens of Mansfield have continued to oppose the route that GTC has presented all along and will continue to stand together."
The new transmission line is scheduled to be in service by summer 2013.
“Our next step is to work with the individual property owners to find the best placement and provide fair compensation. In addition we would like to help with a beautification project, park or greenspace – something that would make a difference in the Mansfield community,” said Haynes.
MAPLE has called a meeting for 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Mansfield Community Center to discuss options of impacted property owners.
Staff Correspondent Aimee A. Jones contributed to this story.