The Power Plant Research Program (PPRP) of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Sept. 4 submitted to state regulators amended initial recommended licensing conditions for Delmarva Power’s Church-Wye Mills transmission project.
As reported, the Pepco Holdings (NYSE:POM) subsidiary is proposing to build the new $31.3m high-voltage transmission line between the Church substation in Millington, Md., and the Wye Mills substation in Wye Mills, Md. The project aims to enhance electric service reliability on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, especially for customers in Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline counties, the company said in February.
In supplemental testimony filed with the state Public Service Commission on Sept. 4, Sandra Shaw Patty, manager of transmission projects for PPRP, said that PPRP and Delmarva Power have participated in several informational exchanges since PPRP filed its initial recommended licensing conditions on Aug. 9. At the end of those discussions, the initial recommended licensing conditions were amended and agreed to by both parties.
Findings of PPRP, other state agencies
In Aug. 9 direct testimony, Patty said that PPRP and other agencies found that Delmarva Power has shown that construction of the new transmission line is necessary and can be built without significant new environmental impacts assuming certain pole location changes are implemented.
“There will be some construction and long-term impacts resulting from the project, however, that Delmarva Power should address,” Patty said, adding that certain initial recommended licensing conditions should be incorporated into any certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) that may be granted by the PSC to ensure that the project can be built and operated in accordance with applicable environmental laws and standards, and in a way that minimizes environmental impacts.
The proposed project will occur within the 50-foot to 300-foot wide right-of-way (ROW) of an existing 69-kV sub-transmission line.
The new line will be about 25.9 miles long and the company has indicated that no new easements or property acquisition will be required for the project. Existing access roads will be used during the construction phase of the project.
Patty also said that the existing 69-kV sub-transmission line will be replaced by a double-circuit, overhead transmission line on single steel poles – from 85 feet to 135 feet tall – that will carry the existing 69-kV circuit and a new 138-kV transmission circuit.
The existing 69-kV line is underground for about 900 feet at the Wye Mills substation and that part will remain “as is” and will not be rebuilt.
Patty noted that according to the company, the project’s primary need is to resolve certain reliability violations that could lead to outages in Talbot, Queen Anne’s and Caroline counties in Maryland if two transmission lines serving the area were both forced out of service.
PJM Interconnection determined that those violations could occur as early as this summer and that the project would resolve those reliability violations.
Delmarva Power has installed an interim protection scheme to mitigate the reliability violations until the project’s anticipated June 1, 2015 in-service date, after which the protection equipment will be removed.
Delmarva Power provided an environmental review document (ERD) for the project, dated Dec. 14, 2012, as well as an analysis of six possible routes for the new line, Patty added.
The project is located in the watersheds of the Chester and Wye Rivers, which are important spawning grounds for anadromous fish. PPRP has determined that the proposed line crosses streams in more than 13 places, including crossings of an unnamed tributary to the Wye East River.
Patty further noted that the proposed new line crosses 58 wetland areas distributed along the project’s entire route, totaling about 26 acres.
Delmarva Power indicated in its ERD that it will follow best management practices during construction in or near streams and wetlands.
The company has also indicated that it will design a construction schedule to place and remove matting in a timely manner so as to prevent permanent damage to vegetative communities and soils in wetlands.
However, Patty noted that PPRP cautions that any construction activities within the herbaceous wetlands in the ROW have the potential to degrade the condition and alter the function of those wetlands.
“Although the expected amount of permanent effect on wetlands and waters of the United States appears to be small, the number of pole positions in wetlands and stream buffers, and the extent of access roads required in wetland areas, indicate that there will be significant temporary impacts and long recovery times,” Patty said.
PPRP recommends a strenuous effort to redesign the line to move structures out of wetland areas, Patty said, adding that Delmarva Power has agreed to relocate certain transmission structures as recommended by PPRP.
PPRP expects that construction or operation of the project to affect wildlife or threatened or endangered species, Patty said, noting that the ROW crosses several significant forest-interior-dwelling species (FIDS) habitat areas.
While there is no FIDS habitat within the ROW due to past vegetation management practices, the ROW separates FIDS habitat areas and affects FIDS due to its 150-foot cleared width.
The potentially affected species include the bald eagle, osprey and the Delmarva fox squirrel.
Current vegetation management protocols implemented in the ROW can be improved to minimize effects on forests, wildlife and waterways, Patty added.
Among other things, Patty discussed the economic, demographic and fiscal impacts of the proposed project, noting that the project would have a small beneficial effect on the Queen Anne’s County economy through the awarding of contracts to local engineering and construction firms.
According to the amended initial recommended licensing conditions filed on Sept. 4, construction and operation of the line is to comply with all applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations, including those involving non-tidal wetlands, water construction, water quality and water pollution control, erosion and sediment control and forest conservation.
Construction and operation of the line must begin within two years of receiving the CPCN and must be completed for operation by June 2015.
Delmarva Power is to also provide as-built details to the PPRP and the PSC on engineering and construction plans of the linear facilities, including ROW width, length and total acreage of the ROW; transmission line structure and foundation types, dimensions and locations; transmission line conductor configuration; and nominal length of span between transmission line structures.
The conditions also call for all portions of the ROW disturbed during construction to be stabilized immediately after the cessation of construction activities within that portion of the ROW, followed by seed application, except in actively cultivated lands, in accordance with the best management practices presented by the state Department of the Environment and as approved by Queen Anne’s County.
Also, any impacts to wetlands, including vernal pools within or abutting the project site are to be mitigated if required by Maryland Non-tidal Wetlands laws and regulations.
Delmarva Power is to also avoid all construction and disturbance at all stream crossings identified by the DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service as being in the vicinity of, or potential habitat for, rare, threatened or endangered species.
Among other things, the conditions noted that if relics of unforeseen archeological sites are revealed and identified in the project area during construction, Delmarva Power, in consultation with, and as approved by, the Maryland Historical Trust, is to develop and implement a plan for avoidance and protection, data recovery, or destruction without recovery of such relics or sites.
Delmarva Power, in a Sept. 4 filing with the PSC, said that it concurs with the statements made in Patty’s supplemental testimony and confirms that the amended initial recommended licensing conditions are acceptable.