New York state regulators have approved the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) request to amend a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need in relation to work needed on existing 230-kV electric lines.
The state Public Service Commission (PSC) said in its April 25 order that it granted the certificate in November 1975 to the Power Authority of the State of New York, now doing business as NYPA, authorizing, subject to conditions, the construction and operation of two parallel single circuit 230-kV electric lines on wood pole H-frame structures. The facility was energized in 1978.
In January, NYPA filed a petition requesting that the certificate be amended to authorize it to build the Moses-Willis (MW) circuit separation project, located in the town of Massena in St. Lawrence County, N.Y., in order to eliminate double circuit contingency.
The proposed project includes relocating about 1.8 miles of a 230-kV overhead circuit to an adjacent series of existing structures within the same right-of-way, building four new structures in a vacant field with 2,213 feet of new 230-kV conductor and one new dead-end structure south of the Moses switchyard, the PSC added.
The first 1.8 miles of the “MW-1” and “MW-2” lines from the switchyard travel south across the St. Lawrence South Channel and the Wiley-Dondero Canal in a vertical configuration on double circuit galvanized lattice steel towers. This segment is within a joint right-of-way corridor with multiple circuits, and within this joint corridor, there are eight double circuit towers for the MW-1 and MW-2 lines ranging in height from 125 feet to 266 feet. Continuing southeast, the MW-1 and MW-2 transmission lines separate onto single circuit wooden H-frame structures.
To eliminate the double circuit contingency, NYPA proposes to de-energize the existing MW-2 circuit and install a new MW-2 circuit on eight existing structures of the “MAL4” circuit, which will result in the MW-1 circuit remaining in place on the Moses-Willis structures, and a segment of the MW-2 circuit being relocated onto a separate set of structures.
NYPA contends that the double circuit contingency constrains North Country operation, reduces reliability by potentially causing voltage, thermal and load shedding issues, and causes a reduction in the deliverability of power across the Moses-Willis-Plattsburgh line. If a double circuit Moses-Willis structure were damaged, both circuits would be out of service and the time to repair and/or replace a structure can be weeks or months, the PSC added.
In its petition, NYPA said improvements to existing access roads will result in minimal impacts to wetlands under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and requested that the PSC issue a water quality certificate for the project.
The PSC said that it delegated responsibility for granting water quality certifications in connection with Article VII certificates to the director of the Office of Energy Efficiency and the Environment, and anticipates that the director will issue the certification after the certificate amendment has been granted.
An archeological survey forwarded to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation found “no historic properties affected,” and NYPA received a letter from that office concurring with the assessment.
NYPA reviewed data from the Natural Heritage Program and determined that the American Bald Eagle, Upland Sandpiper and Short-eared Owls had, or have, potential habitat in the project area. Considering the project’s limited nature, staff does not believe a significant threat exists to these upland species and recommends no special measures be taken, the PSC added.
The PSC also said that if Blanding’s Turtles are encountered within the project area during construction, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is to be contacted to discuss relocating the turtle to a safe location.
Furthermore, the cumulative visual impact of all proposed work can be described as minimal and incremental.
The PSC also noted that the first 1.8 miles of the circuit separation will involve moving conductors and equipment onto land owned by Alcoa, with about 11.4 acres of land needing to be acquired from two different landowners. NYPA is using eminent domain, with the landowner’s consent, regarding a 7.6-acre parcel owned by a private landowner as a means of acquiring clean title to the parcel.
Marble River, which owns and operates the Marble River Wind Farm that is interconnected with the NYPA-owned transmission system, supports the project as it believes that it will remove the double circuit contingency and improve transmission reliability in the region, the PSC noted.
“[T]he project will not result in any material increase in any environmental impact or a substantial change in the location of any part of the transmission facility,” the PSC said. “Indeed, based upon staff’s field work, the potential environmental impact of the facility movement and structure replacements is negligible.”