Agencies release scoping summary report for 500-kV line

The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) recently released the scoping summary report for the proposed 500-kV Colusa-Sutter Transmission Line.

According to the scoping report, the project would involve construction, operation, and maintenance of the new single circuit, 1,190-MW transmission line that connects the COTP transmission lines to a substation in Sutter or Sacramento County. The project would also involve construction of substation facilities at the COTP interconnection point, including the installation of communication and protection equipment.

The scoping report added that the project is needed because it, among other things:

  • Addresses WAPA’s obligation to respond to a SMUD transmission service request under WAPA’s Open Access Transmission Tariff and provides new Central Valley Project (CVP) capacity for the benefit of all WAPA customers
  • Ensures a new transmission path to the California-Oregon Transmission Project (COTP) allowing SMUD and WAPA to schedule energy delivery
  • Provides SMUD with bi-directional scheduling rights between the COTP and the SMUD system, which SMUD can use to transfer additional energy to and from the COTP and/or import renewable generation in the greater Sacramento Valley or from the Pacific Northwest
  • Allows SMUD more flexible use of its transmission rights to the Pacific Northwest, to import and export energy, for participation in newly developing markets for flexible energy transfers, such as the California ISO’s (Cal-ISO) regional Energy Imbalance Market
  • Allows SMUD greater flexibility to schedule energy to meet demands during peak and nonpeak periods, as well as to ensure that adequate capacity is available to address system fluctuations caused by intermittent resources like solar or wind, thereby enhancing reliability

According to a May 4 statement posted on the websites of WAPA and SMUD, stakeholders provided more than 300 comments about the scope of the environmental review for the project, which is the earliest phase of the environmental review, WAPA and SMUD said. The scoping period spanned 122 days from December 2015 through April 2016, as well as during an additional 60-day scoping period between Jan. 6 and March 7 of this year – which was extended to March 21, the agencies added.

All comments received during the scoping period are being reviewed in detail to inform the project team about issues of concern related to the project in general, and specific items to be considered in the environmental review, the agencies said. The comments relevant to the scope of the environmental document will be addressed and analyzed in the environmental impact statement and environmental impact review (EIS/EIR), the agencies said.

WAPA and SMUD said that during the next two years, they will prepare the joint EIS/EIR to examine the potential environmental impacts of the project alternatives, including a no action alternative. The public will have an opportunity to attend additional public meetings and comment on the draft EIS/EIR, which is currently anticipated in spring 2019, the agencies said. No action will be taken on the project proposal until after the environmental review is completed in 2020, the agencies noted.

The corridors to be studied and evaluated in the EIS/EIR within Colusa and Sutter counties consist of the following, the scoping report noted:

  • Northern Corridor Study Area: Build the proposed project – about 44 miles – adjacent to WAPA’s existing 230-kV Olinda-O’Banion and Keswick-O’Banion double circuit transmission lines. This study area would interconnect the existing COTP transmission line system near the existing COTP Maxwell Series Compensation substation to WAPA’s CVP transmission system near the existing WAPA O’Banion substation. The proposed line would require the construction of an additional substation adjacent to the existing Maxwell Series Compensation substation and an additional substation near the existing O’Banion substation
  • Southern Corridor Study Area: Build the proposed project – about 27 miles – to interconnect with the existing COTP transmission line system about eight miles northwest of the community of Arbuckle, Calif., and then continue east towards the existing O’Banion substation. This study area would also require the construction of an additional substation adjacent to the existing COTP transmission line northwest of Arbuckle and an additional substation near the existing O’Banion substation
  • Segment 1 Alternative Study Area: Build an alternate north-to-south route – about nine miles – as an alternative to the Northern Corridor Study Area starting at WAPA’s existing 230-kV Olinda-O’Banion and Keswick-O’Banion double circuit transmission line, and heading south just west of the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge and then due east to connect to the O’Banion substation. Under this segment alternative, the new line would be located farther away from the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge

Based on comments received during the public scoping period from December 2015 to April 2016, the two agencies determined that this additional study area and segment alternative should be considered, the scoping report said:

  • County Road 16 Corridor Study Area: Build about 27 miles of new transmission line to connect to the existing COTP transmission line about eight miles west of the community of Dufour in Yolo County, and proceed east towards the existing Elverta substation in Sacramento County. Two new substations would be built – one adjacent to the existing COTP transmission line northwest of Dufour, and another adjacent to the Elverta substation
  • Segment 2 Alternative Study Area: Build about nine miles of new transmission line to connect from six miles northwest of the existing Elverta substation in Sacramento County and provide an alternate west-to-east route for the County Road 16 Corridor Study Area. It would extend north in a loop-like fashion, at a location about 2.5 miles north of the Sacramento International Airport, and then rejoin the County Road 16 Corridor Study Area as it continues due east to connect to the Elverta substation. The new segment would be located further away from Sacramento International Airport to provide a greater buffer between the transmission structures and airplane flight paths

The report summarized the comments that were received. For instance, regarding the project purpose and need/project objectives, comments noted that the project is not necessary to increase SMUD’s ability to import power from, and export to, other energy markets because it can use the existing Cal-ISO grid; and that while the project provides benefits to Sacramento County, impacts are on landowners in Colusa, Sutter, and/or Yolo counties.

Regarding the project description, comments called for a consideration of the use of tubular steel poles instead of lattice towers, as well as of the use of single pole towers and other options to reduce the towers’ footprint or the number of towers.

The report further noted that of public involvement, information and the scoping period, the comments included requests to extend the comment period to allow more time to provide constructive comments; requests for maps with finer details, as well as precise boundaries and locations, of the proposed line; requests to notify all potentially affected landowners about the proposed project so that they can participate in the public process.

Regarding alternatives, comments called for the avoidance of installing additional transmission lines along Elverta Road; for the consideration of an alternative of burying at least the portions of the lines adjacent to the Sutter and Colusa National Wildlife Refuges; and for the consideration of a route that follows existing rights of way or public easements, such as roadways or water transmission facilities.

The report also said that regarding land-use and recreation, the comments called for, among other things, the consideration that placing 500-kV lines, poles, and substations within the current County Road 16 Corridor Study Area would introduce incompatible land uses within an urbanizing area, and the route would be directly within the North Natomas Precinct project and bisect the community.

Of biological resources, the comments called for impacts to be analyzed on migratory birds’ flight patterns, mortality, foraging, nesting and habitat; for coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and for the avoidance of routes that are previously conserved for wildlife, plants, open space, and agriculture, for instance.

Among other things, the report said that regarding visual resources, the comments called for discussion of direct impacts to viewsheds caused by towers and lines, specifically for landowners.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.