Power Line Safety Over Texas Lakes: How to Comply With Reporting Rules

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Mark Ickert

Water Resource Engineer

A 2019 Texas law known as HB 4150 aims to improve safety on 178 of the state’s lakes by requiring owners of overhead utility lines to file regular reports with the Public Utility Commission. Reports cover inspections, staff training and compliance with power line height requirements.

Many utilities still are working to understand how best to meet their obligations. Owners and operators need to determine: which reports they are required to file, who within their organization should handle the reporting, and how to develop appropriate inspection plans.

What Does HB 4150 Require?

Annual Reports: All electric utilities must report yearly on the safety of their overhead transmission or distribution facilities.

  • Equipment at 60,000 volts or higher: Report noncompliant vertical clearances on their systems
  • Equipment at more than 1,000 volts: Report injuries/fatalities from noncompliance, along with corrective actions

Five-Year Reports: Utilities operating overhead transmission facilities at 60,000 volts or higher must report the percentage of inspections completed by the reporting year and those planned for the following year. The next reporting deadline is May 1, 2025.

Training Reports: Utilities should have reported on their training programs in 2020 but must file updates with the PUC after they make material changes to training programs or documents.

How Can Freese and Nichols Help?

Fluctuating lake levels can affect whether power lines meet height requirements for safety. Lakes can rise and fall, depending on storms and dry weather. It’s critical for a multiyear inspection plan to include hydrologic and hydraulic modeling to account for these predictable changes.

Freese and Nichols’ water resources teams bring extensive experience with modeling and lake engineering:

  • More than 40 modelers in our offices across Texas
  • Performed detailed H&H modeling for more than 200 lakes in Texas
  • Selected to map and perform H&H analysis on 12 of 15 of the Texas Water Development Board’s planning regions

For more information: Mark Ickert, PE, mark.ickert@freese.com, 817-735-7229

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Mark Ickert, PE, is a Water Resource Engineer based in Fort Worth, Texas.