The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff, in its Oct. 14 report of investigation submitted to the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), recommended that the OPSB find that the basis of need for AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s proposed South Caldwell–Macksburg 138-kV transmission line project has been demonstrated and is in compliance, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the proposed facility include certain conditions.
As noted in the report, AEP Ohio Transco would own, build, operate and maintain the proposed project, which would be located in Noble and Washington counties in Ohio. The proposed project involves installing a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the existing South Caldwell substation and the planned Macksburg station. The company has proposed a 100-foot right of way (ROW) for the new line, which would incorporate steel poles for support.
The preferred route of the project is about 8.1 miles long, divided into a northern section and a southern section. The northern section, staff added, would exit the South Caldwell substation, located about 1,000 feet south of the intersection of County Roads 4 and 86 in southern Noble County, as a single circuit transmission line in a southerly direction. The route would generally follow township roads 4 and 7 for about 2.2 miles, and then travel south and east. The northern section is about 4.8 miles and ends at the South Olive substation.
The southern section, staff added, is about 3.2 miles long, starting at the South Olive substation and heading in a southeasterly direction to the Macksburg substation. Most of that route follows an existing 23-kV line and would overbuild the line and ROW. Staff also noted that the company has finalized plans for the new Macksburg substation, which would be located about 990 feet southeast of the existing Macksburg substation. The currently existing 34.5/12-kV Macksburg substation would be taken out of service, staff said.
Discussing the project’s need, staff noted that the proposed facility is part of a broader program known as the Southeast Ohio Area Improvement (SOAI) Program, which is an agreement between AEP Ohio Transco, Ohio Power Company, Buckeye Power and Washington Electric Cooperative. The program is intended to enhance the reliability of the region’s aging network – built more than 70 years ago – by adding many new transmission elements and ultimately providing a looped 138-kV transmission system in southeast Ohio. The proposed facility, staff added, would establish two new 138-kV delivery points.
Customers served by the 23-kV system have experienced 238 outages, totaling more than 1,400 hours during the last 13 years, staff said.
No negative impacts to commercial or industrial land uses are anticipated as a result of the project, staff said, adding that no negative impacts to institutional and recreational land uses are expected from the construction, operation or maintenance of the preferred, or alternate, route of the project.
The company estimates the total applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route at about $10.9m, and the alternate route at about $12.5m, staff said.
The company conducted a cultural resources literature review of the proposed project in September, staff said, noting that the company has not completed “Phase I” cultural resources field work studies for either route to date. Staff recommended continued coordination between affected parties prior to construction to ensure minimal impacts from the project on cultural resources.
Regarding threatened and endangered species, staff said that due to a lack of suitable habitat and no proposed in-water work, impacts to federal and state-listed aquatic, reptile and amphibian species are not anticipated. Noting that Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats hibernate in the winter months and would be negatively impacted if hibernacula areas were to be disturbed, staff said that if any caves or abandoned mines may be disturbed, it recommends further coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to determine if fall or spring portal surveys are warranted.
While both routes are viable, they each have unique issues, and no route is without impact, staff said, adding that when compared to the preferred route, potential impacts associated with the number of acres needed for project ROW and the number of parcels required are greater along the alternate route. The preferred route would require about 99 acres of land, while the alternate route would require about 109 acres of land, staff said.
Staff recommended that the OPSB find that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact, and is in compliance, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the proposed facility include certain conditions.
Among the recommended conditions of certificate, staff said that the company is to conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities. Also, within 60 days after the start of commercial operation, the company is to submit to staff a copy of the as-built specifications for the entire facility. Staff also noted that the certificate is to become invalid if the company has not started a continuous course of construction of the proposed facility within five years of the date of filing the application.
At least 30 days prior to the preconstruction conference, the company is to provide to staff a complaint resolution procedure to address potential public grievances resulting from project construction and operation.
Prior to construction, the company is to prepare and conduct a Phase I cultural resources suvey program for the line, laydown area(s) and access roads acceptable to staff and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.
Among other things, staff added that the company is to adhere to seasonal cutting dates of Oct. 1 through March 31 for removal of trees, unless coordination efforts with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the USFWS allow a different course of action.
AEP Ohio Transco is a transmission-only affiliate of AEP Ohio/Ohio Power Company, and is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).