The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), in a Sept. 14 final order, authorized Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion Virginia Power) to build and operate the Belvoir–Gum Springs rebuild project, as proposed in the company’s application and amended in a stipulation, subject to certain conditions.
The SCC noted that the company last December filed with it the application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to rebuild, entirely within existing right of way (ROW), about 2.6 miles of the existing 230-kV Jefferson Street–Gum Springs Line #204 and 230-kV Ox–Gum Springs Line #220, located entirely in Fairfax County, Va.
Dominion Virginia Power said in its application that the proposed project is necessary for the company to maintain the structural integrity and reliability of its transmission system, as well as to maintain reliable electric service to customers in the area.
The company originally proposed to remove 48 existing structures and erect 18 new ones, the SCC said, adding that while the existing poles are, on average, about 60 feet tall, most of the new poles were proposed to be between 100 feet and 125 feet tall.
Certain respondents in the case expressed concern that the height of the structures proposed by the company may adversely impact views from the Historic Huntley House and may affect birds flying above the tree line in Huntley Meadows Park.
SCC staff in May filed a report with the SCC, agreeing with the company that the continued operation of the lines is necessary for maintaining electric reliability. The SCC added that staff understood the respondents’ concerns and found that both the project as proposed by the company, as well as a rebuild that uses structures of a reduced height of 90 feet, would be viable options to address the need.
In rebuttal testimony, the company said that building 90-foot-tall structures would significantly increase the number of structures and foundations that would be required and would require the company to erect temporary structures, which would increase the project’s cost from about $10.4m to about $18.1m, and would increase the construction time from four months to 12 months.
The company, Fairfax County, the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park and the Friends of Historic Huntley, at a June evidentiary hearing, presented the stipulation and recommendation, resolving the contested issues in the case. The SCC added that the stipulation set forth, among other things, that the company would use 100-foot structures when building the project, and that the company install, as a cost of the project, bird diverters along the entire rebuild section of the line within the Huntley Meadows Park and pay for a monitoring program to report on bird fatalities along the easement, if two or more bird fatalities are documented to occur in any calendar quarter and are found to be caused by the rebuild section of the line.
A hearing examiner, in a July report, found that the stipulation was reasonable and should be accepted, the SCC said.
The SCC said that it finds that the project is needed and that the record reflects that completing the project would replace an aging transmission line that is nearing the end of its expected service life, thereby enabling the company to maintain the overall long-term reliability of its transmission system.
Due to the fact that the project will be located within existing ROW, and given the agreements reached by the stipulating parties in the proposed stipulation, the SCC said that it finds that adverse impacts on scenic assets and historic districts in Virginia will be minimized.
The SCC said that it conditions the approval granted in its order on the conditions recommended in a report by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), with certain exceptions. For instance, the SCC said that it does not require the company to conduct inventories and plant surveys for rare species in the project area. The SCC said that it finds that the company should notify contractors regarding the potential presence of wood turtles and provide training concerning how to relocate those turtles if found at the project site during construction.
Among other things, the SCC said that the project must be built and in service by Dec. 1, 2017, but the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.
Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE:D).