Virginia state entities, including Prince William County, have offered recommendations to the Virginia State Corporation Commission regarding the route for Virginia Electric and Power’s (Dominion Virginia Power’s) proposed Haymarket transmission project.
As noted in the state Department of Environmental Quality’s filing, Dominion Virginia Power has submitted an application to the SCC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to convert its existing 115-kV Gainesville–Loudoun Line #124, located in Prince William and Loudoun counties, to 230-kV operation, and to build in Prince William County and the Town of Haymarket a new 230-kV double circuit transmission line to run about 5.1 miles from a tap point about 0.5 mile north of the company’s existing Gainesville substation on the converted Line #124 (Haymarket Junction) to a new 230-34.5-kV Haymarket substation (Haymarket Loop).
The company also proposes to build a 230-34.5-kV Haymarket substation on land in Prince William County to be owned by Dominion, the DEQ added.
The DEQ said that during analysis of the eight route alternatives that were identified within the study area for the proposed project, three routes – New Road Alternative Route, Northern Alternative Route and Wheeler Alternative Route – were determined to have more technical nuances to make them electrically viable, and greater construction obstacles, permitting uncertainness and environmental impacts, and were removed from further consideration.
The DEQ said that its Office of Wetlands and Stream Protection (OWSP) recommends the I-66 Overhead Route since “it has a significantly lower probability of wetlands than the remaining alternatives.”
The DEQ also said that the state Department of Historic Resources finds that the I-66 Hybrid Alternative appears to have the least overall potential impact to recorded historic resources.
Prince William County, meanwhile, concludes that the I-66 Hybrid alternative is the only alternative that adequately minimizes negative impacts to the county’s cultural resources as well as to existing and planned residential communities and businesses. The DEQ added that last August, the Board of County Supervisors adopted resolution 15-508 declaring that any proposal to install new or re-fit high-voltage transmission lines is to be supported only if the lines are buried in the right of way (ROW) of I-66 from its intersection with US Route 29 through Haymarket and beyond.
The proposed route – I-66 Overhead Alternative Route – is 5.1 miles long between the Haymarket Junction and the proposed Haymarket substation. The proposed route originates at the proposed tie-in location on the converted 230-kV Line #124 near the end of Cushing Road (SR 781) and extends for 5.1 miles through Prince William County and the Town of Haymarket, terminating at the proposed Haymarket substation, the DEQ said.
The proposed route generally crosses commercially/industrially developed and forested land adjacent to existing transportation ROWs, the DEQ said, adding that the proposed route was developed to provide an opportunity to maximize co-location with existing infrastructure (I-66 and Norfolk Southern Railroad), and provides the shortest and most direct route to the proposed Haymarket substation.
From the tie-in location, the route travels northwest for about 0.3 mile, crossing I-66, before heading in a westerly direction for another 1.7 miles paralleling the north side of I-66. That segment of the route, the DEQ added, crosses multiple on/off ramps of the interstate, Lee Highway, and University Boulevard. The route then continues heading northwest 1.9 miles following the northern side of I-66 and crossing Catharpin Road (SR 676).
The DEQ added that the route then crosses I-66 and heads in a southwest direction for 0.3 mile crossing James Madison Highway (U.S. 15). After crossing James Madison Highway, the route follows the western side of the highway for about 0.1 mile, crosses John Marshall Highway (SR 55), and then continues northwest on the south side of John Marshall Highway for about 0.4 mile before heading south and terminating at the proposed Haymarket substation.
Noting, for instance, that the proposed route would cross about 0.5 mile of wetland habitat and require the clearing and/or disturbance of up to about 5.9 acres of wetland area, the DEQ said that the OWSP recommends that all wetlands and stream crossings within the proposed project alignment be field delineated prior to detailed engineering, clearing activities and construction. Also, the OWSP recommended that wetland and stream impacts be avoided and minimized to the maximum extent practicable, the DEQ said, adding that stream impacts should be minimized or avoided by spanning the transmission line across each stream.
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Division of Natural Heritage has determined that the proposed route would not adversely impact natural heritage resources based on the scope of activity and distance to resources, the DEQ said.
There is potential for the Northern long-eared bat to occur within the project area, the DEQ said, noting that due to the decline in population numbers, that bat has been federally listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Due to the legal status of the Northern long-eared bat, if tree removal is proposed for the project, DCR recommends coordination with the USFWS to ensure compliance with protected species legislation, the DEQ said.
Of historic and archaeological resources, the DEQ noted that 11 historic resources evaluated for the proposed route include the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)-listed St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the unevaluated Second Battle of Manassas. The proposed route may have no impact on St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, for instance, the DEQ said, adding that the proposed route, depending on final pole placement, may have a moderate impact on the Second Battle of Manassas. It is recommended that the proposed construction will not have a severe impact on any of the resources associated with the proposed route, the DEQ said.
Regarding the I-66 Overhead Alternative (proposed route), DHR finds that the pre-application analysis identifies 12 Virginia Landmarks Register/NRHP listed-eligible architectural resources and three previously identified archaeological sites within the tiered study area for that alternative. Those numbers include seven historic districts/landmarks and five battlefields, the DEQ added, noting that based upon a review of the information provided, it is DHR’s opinion that this section would have minimal impacts on four resources, moderate impacts to two resources, and no impacts on six resources. DHR recommends selection of the I-66 Hybrid Alternative to minimize potential impacts to recorded significant historic resources.
Among other things, the DEQ said that the Prince William County board reaffirmed and renewed its commitment to the Comprehensive Plan Long Range Land Use strategy, which designates corridors that should be followed for all future electric utility lines of 150 kV or more and to contain high-voltage transmission lines in designated corridors to protect private property and preserve the county’s distinctive cultural and historic inheritance, including high quality open space, such as existing and planned off-road trails.
The county finds that the proposed line is not within one of those corridors, and that within the project area, three battlefields are directly and indirectly affected, including the Buckland Mills Battlefield, the DEQ said.
The DEQ said that the county board has directed county staff to evaluate the I-66 Hybrid alternative, adding that the underground alternative provides a unique opportunity to collocate a major public utility project with the widening of I-66, with minimum disturbance to residents and businesses, as well as to cultural and environmental resources.
Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE:D).