Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) staff, in a Dec. 27, 2016, report, recommended that the OPSB find that the basis of need for AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s (AEP Ohio Transco) proposed Dennison-Yager 138-kV Transmission Line Rebuild Project has been demonstrated, and that the project complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the project include specified conditions.
As noted by staff, AEP Ohio Transco proposes to build the project in Harrison and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio. The proposed project would install a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the existing Dennison substation and the Yager substation, which is under construction. Staff also said that the company is proposing a 100-foot right of way (ROW) for the new line, which would incorporate steel poles for support.
The project involves replacing a portion of the existing Dennison-Desert Road 69-kV transmission line, which has been in service since 1926, and serves the city of New Philadelphia, as well as the villages of Carrollton, Dennison and Newcomerstown. The line would continue to serve that area with 69-kV transmission service, but would be built to 138-kV design standards, staff added.
The proposed project would be built to maintain and improve reliability in the eastern Ohio area, according to the report.
The preferred route of the Dennison-Yager rebuild project is about 7.2 miles long, and predominantly parallels the existing Dennison-Desert Road line. The new line, staff added, would be offset by about 25 feet from the centerline of the existing 69-kV line in order to ensure safe construction and reliability, as well as to allow the existing line to remain in service during construction.
The preferred route exits the existing Dennison substation to the north and follows the existing 69-kV line to the north for about 0.6 miles through the village of Dennison, staff said. The preferred route then travels predominantly to the east and southeast for about 6.6 miles to the Yager substation, generally following State Route 250, railroad tracks, and then State Route 151. The preferred route deviates from the existing 69-kV transmission line centerline three times for a total of 2.5 miles, staff added, noting that those deviations are intended to avoid residences and other sensitive land uses.
There are 502 residences within 1,000 feet of the preferred route centerline, two of which are within 100 feet, staff said, adding that there are 586 residences within 1,000 feet of the alternate route centerline, 15 of which are within 100 feet. The preferred route would cross about 59 parcels, while the alternate route would cross about 76 parcels, staff said.
The preferred and alternate routes would cross about 36 acres of agricultural land, staff said, noting that since the project is intended to rebuild an existing transmission line, permanent additional impacts to agricultural fields would be minimal. Stating that there are four commercial facilities located within 1,000 feet of the preferred route, staff noted that no negative impacts to commercial or industrial land uses are anticipated as a result of the project.
Staff also said that the preferred and alternate routes would cross two parks, which are presently crossed by the existing 69-kV transmission line. In addition, three schools, three medical facilities, and two churches were identified within 1,000 feet of the preferred route. Staff added that no negative impacts to institutional and recreational land uses are expected from the construction, operation, or maintenance of either the preferred or alternate route.
Permanent visual impacts would result from the introduction of new, taller manmade elements to the landscape, staff said, noting that aesthetic impacts would vary with the viewer and setting, depending on the degree of contrast between the proposed line and the existing landscape.
The preferred route would require about 21.2 acres of tree clearing, and the alternate route would require about 12.8 acres of tree clearing. Staff added that the company has committed to restricting tree clearing to the seasonal clearing period of Oct. 1 through March 31 to avoid any potential impacts to the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat. If any caves or abandoned mines may be disturbed, staff said that it recommends further coordination with the USFWS to determine if fall or spring portal surveys are warranted.
Staff said that while both routes are viable, each has unique issues. Staff concluded that when compared to the preferred route, potential impacts associated with the number of residences within 1,000 feet of the alternate route is greater. Also, while the preferred route would require more tree clearing, it has fewer structures located in wetlands and is located further away from the documented bald eagle nest by nearly 400 feet.
Staff said that it recommends that the OPSB find that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact, and therefore complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB include certain conditions.
Among other conditions, staff said that the company is to conduct a preconference conference prior to the start of any construction activities. Also, the certificate is to become invalid if the company has not started a continuous course of construction of the proposed project within five years of the date of issuance of the certificate. Staff also said that a condition calls for the company to develop – before construction begins – a public information program that informs affected property owners of the nature of the project, specific contact information of company personnel who are familiar with the project, the proposed timeframe for project construction, and a schedule for restoration activities.
AEP Ohio Transco is a transmission-only affiliate of AEP Ohio/Ohio Power Company, and is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).