Under the preferred alternative relating to the proposed 500-kV Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line, 18.65 acres of wetland would be adversely affected as a result of vegetation removal and maintenance, and the construction of access roads and tower pads, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
In its recently released draft statement of findings involving the line proposed by PPL (NYSE:PPL) subsidiary PPL Electric Utilities and Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG) subsidiary Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), the NPS also said vegetation clearing and maintenance activities would affect 17.63 acres of wetlands within park boundaries through a maintained, permanent conversion to scrub shrub and/or emergent wetlands.
Access roads and tower pads would permanently destroy 1.02 acres of wetlands through construction activities, the NPS said, adding that with the exception of these access roads and tower pads, no equipment would be driven through wetland areas.
The mitigation proposed in exchange for the wetland impacts would assure no net loss of wetlands on NPS-managed lands, the NPS said. The specific locations for compensation, the schedule for project completion, the funding sources and other details relating to wetlands compensation were determined in consultation with the NPS and appropriate resource agencies.
The NPS also said it “finds that the preferred alternative, as stipulated, is consistent with” a certain executive order, among other things.
PPL Electric Utilities and PSE&G have proposed replacing an existing 230-kV line with a double circuit 500-kV line in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The NPS also said a public comment period has begun and will end on Aug. 16.
The preferred alternative, or “Alternative 2,” would follow the existing 230-kV Bushkill to Kittatinny line corridor as it traverses about 4.3 miles of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The old line structures would be removed and replaced with the new 500-kV structures. Within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area boundaries, the route also crosses the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The existing right of way (ROW) would be widened and require vegetation clearing – upland and wetland vegetation – for an additional 50 feet to 200 feet under this alternative.
The NPS also noted that under this alternative, new, permanent access roads that would affect some wetland and floodplain areas would be required. A total of 5.3 miles of access roads would be built, with 1.9 miles occurring outside the ROW. With the exception of permanent access roads, no equipment would be driven through wetland areas under this alternative, the NPS added.
PPL Electric Utilities and PSE&G have outlined mitigation measures that they would implement and that the NPS would require as conditions of the permit, including installing foundations for towers involving drilling instead of blasting, and not building access roads within 200 feet of the Middle Delaware Scenic River.
The companies would compensate for unavoidable impacts to wetlands through funding the completion of several wetland restoration and rehabilitation projects. Compensation for wetland impacts includes a combination of compensatory mitigation projects within the park that includes wetland restoration, stream restoration and removal of invasive plant species from high-quality wetlands.
Specific wetland mitigation practices that have been incorporated into the proposed project and that the NPS would require include a third-party contractor, to be chosen and managed by the NPS and funded by the companies, to complete the identification, delineation and functions and values evaluation of all compensatory wetland mitigation projects.
The NPS listed other alternatives, including “Alternative 1,” or the “no action” alternative, which assumed that current conditions continue into the future and that no further construction occurs beyond the existing transmission line.
“Alternative 4,” for instance, would have a north-south orientation and cross about 1.5 miles of NPS lands along an existing ROW.
Representatives for the companies could not be immediately reached for comment on July 18.
According to TransmissionHub data, the line costs $1.26bn, with PPL Electric Utilities responsible for $510m and PSE&G responsible for the remaining $750m.
The line was one of seven lines chosen by the Obama administration’s Rapid Response Team for Transmission for fast-tracking through the permitting and construction process.