Dominion Virginia Power provides update on project including Surry-Skiffes Creek 500-kV line

Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion Virginia Power) on Nov. 29 filed an update with the Virginia State Corporation Commission regarding its Surry-Skiffes Creek 500-kV transmission line, Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230-kV transmission line, and the Skiffes Creek 500-kV-230-kV-115-kV switching station.

As TransmissionHub reported, Dominion Virginia Power in June 2012 filed with the SCC an application for approval and certification of an electric transmission project, proposing to build the new, overhead, 500-kV electric transmission line from the company’s existing 500-kV-230-kV Surry switching station in Surry County to a new 500-kV-230-kV-115-kV Skiffes Creek switching station in James City County (Surry–Skiffes Creek Line); the Skiffes Creek switching station; a new 230-kV line in the counties of James City and York and the City of Newport News, from the proposed Skiffes station to the company’s existing Whealton substation located in the City of Hampton (Skiffes Creek–Whealton Line); and additional facilities at the existing Surry switching station and Whealton substation (collectively, the “certificated project”).

The SCC in November 2013, February 2014 and April 2014, issued orders in the proceeding that, among other things, granted the company’s application and approved certificates of public convenience and necessity for the certificated project, subject to certain requirements. The SCC, in a Feb. 8, 2014, order amending certificates, said that the approved construction must be completed and in service by Dec. 31, 2015, provided, however, that the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.

As noted in the company’s Nov. 29 filing, the SCC orders were appealed by BASF Corporation and jointly by James City County, Save the James Alliance Trust and James River Association (JCC Parties) to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which issued its unanimous opinion in those appeals in April 2015, affirming the SCC’s approval and certification of the transmission facilities, which comprise the certificated project.

The court also reversed and remanded the holding in the SCC’s November 2013 order that the term “transmission line” includes transmission switching stations such as the Skiffes station under “Va. Code § 56-46.1 F,” which exempts transmission lines approved by the SCC under that section from “Va. Code § 15.2-2232” and local zoning ordinances. The court in May 2015 denied petitions of the SCC and the company seeking rehearing of that aspect of the court’s opinion, and as a result, the company must now obtain local land use approval from James City County to build the Skiffes station.

The court in June 2015 issued its mandate and remand, returning the case to the SCC for further proceedings, the company added.

The company said that it has continued with its permitting efforts to build the facilities that have been approved and certificated by the SCC. For instance, in August 2013, the company submitted a combined joint permit application (JPA) for certain U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits for the Surry-Skiffes Creek line and the Skiffes Creek-Whealton line. The two Corps permits required for the placement of fill and obstruction to navigation prompt review under NEPA, the company added.

The Corps in October 2015 published its Preliminary Alternatives Conclusions White Paper, stating that its preliminary finding is that two alternatives appear to meet the project purpose while reasonably complying with evaluation criteria: the Surry-Skiffes-Whealton 500-kV OH (AC) (Dominion’s preferred) and Chickahominy-Skiffes-Whealton 500-kV alternatives.

The company also noted that the Corps will make its final selection of alternatives when it issues the environmental assessment (EA), which will accompany the permit decision.

Noting that the two Corps permits also prompt review under the Endangered Species Act, the company said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in April concurred with the Corps’ conclusions regarding the Northern Long Eared Bat, indicating that the Corps would permit project construction without a time-of-year restriction on tree clearing.

The two Corps permits also prompt review under the National Historic Preservation Act. Among other things, the company said that a draft mitigation plan was developed and the Corps provided for a consulting parties comment period on the draft mitigation plan. The Corps is working toward entering into a memorandum of understanding with the State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding mitigation, the company said.

Dominion Virginia Power also said that it continues to coordinate with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), based upon that entity’s desire to have additional certainty surrounding the Corps permitting; the company must obtain an authorization from the VMRC for encroachment on the state’s subaqueous beds in the James River.

The Federal Aviation Administration has completed its review of all of the proposed 500-kV structures; the 230-kV structures; and associated cranes and has made a determination of no hazard to air navigation.

The company further noted that consistent with the court’s opinion, the company in June 2015 filed a special use permit (SUP) application, a rezoning request, a substantial accord determination request, and a height waiver application for a switching station in James City County associated with the project.

The James City County Planning Commission in August 2015 voted 4-2 against recommending approval of the switching station, and the company subsequently filed an appeal of the substantial accord determination to the James City County (JCC) Board of Supervisors. The JCC Board will make the final determination on the SUP, rezoning and height waiver requests, and will hear the appeal on the substantial accord determination, and it is anticipated that all four items will be considered during the same meeting of the JCC Board, the company added.

In light of “additional delays in the Corps process,” the company said that it submitted another deferral request earlier this month until the June 27, 2017, JCC Board meeting unless the Corps issues its permit before then, and the JCC Board approved that request on Nov. 22.

The company also said that in September 2015, it submitted the switching station site plan to the county for review, and the county review departments granted conditional approval of that plan, pending the legislative action by the JCC Board.

Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE:D).

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3061 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.