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By taking no action for 30 days, the Arkansas Public Service Commission has given its tacit approval for Southwestern Electric Power Co. to build a high-voltage power line along the Arkansas-Missouri border.

The commission had until Tuesday to enter an order that would have altered or rejected a Jan. 17 order from Connie Griffin, an administrative law judge, said John Bethel, executive director of the commission.

Because the commission didn’t enter a separate order, Griffin’s order becomes the commission’s final decision, said Bethel.

Thousands of people in Northwest Arkansas have voiced objections to the power line since it was proposed April 3, questioning the need for it and citing potential damage to the environment and tourism. Since Griffin’s Jan. 17 order, some Missouri residents also have become vocal opponents.

Under Arkansas Code Annotated 23-2-422, opponents have 30 days to file a petition requesting a rehearing. The commission would then have 30 days to consider that petition. If that petition is rejected, opponents would have another 30 days in which to file an appeal with the Arkansas Court of Appeals, said Bethel.

On Jan. 17, Griffin chose the 56-mile Route 109 as the only “reasonable” one for the power line, based on residential and aesthetic impact. Griffin’s approval was only for the 31 mile portion of the route that’s in Arkansas. SWEPCO must get approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission to construct the 25 mile portion in that state.

Initially, there were six proposed routes. Griffin noted in her order that Route 109 wasn’t the one preferred by SWEPCO. The electric company had preferred a shorter, 49-mile route that would have cost the company $6.5 million less to construct.

Most of the power line would be in Benton and Carroll counties. The 345-kilovolt line would go from Centerton to near Berryville.

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