Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff, in a May 22 report filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), concluded that American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) unit AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) has demonstrated the basis of need of the proposed Lamping-Rouse 138-kV Transmission Line Project due to the reliability problems caused by the current aging 23-kV system.
The project is not expected to adversely impact the existing transmission grid and would allow the transmission system to provide safe and reliable electric service, while meeting all of the applicable planning criteria, staff said.
The proposed project would provide additional transmission service to Monroe County, ultimately improving electric service reliability in the southeastern Ohio area, staff said, adding that the company proposes to place the line in service in early-to-mid 2019.
The proposed facility is part of a broader program to modernize the southeast Ohio transmission and distribution network, staff said, noting that the program is intended to enhance the reliability of the region’s aging 23-kV distribution system by adding many new transmission elements and ultimately providing a looped 138-kV transmission system in southeast Ohio.
The company has shown that, without the installation of the proposed project and associated projects in the southeast Ohio area, anticipated load growth and aging infrastructure would cause reliability issues, staff said.
The preferred route is 4.8 miles long, while the alternate route is 4.7 miles long, staff said, adding that the company estimates that the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route are about $7.5m, and about $7.9m for the alternate route.
Woodlots (39%), and existing utility right of way (ROW) (30%) comprise the majority of land use acreage that falls within the proposed 100-foot ROW for the preferred route, while woodlots (76%) and pasture land (16%) comprise the majority of land use acreage along the alternate route, staff said.
The preferred route parallels the existing 345-kV Muskingum River-Tidd transmission line corridor for about 4,000 feet, and then follows the routes of existing utility lines, including electric distribution lines, for most of its length, staff said.
There are 18 residences located within 1,000 feet of the preferred route centerline, none of which is within the proposed 100-foot ROW, staff said, adding that there are also 18 residences located within 1,000 feet of the alternate route centerline – some of which are the same residences as the preferred route – none of which are located within the proposed 100-foot ROW. The nearest residence is located about 60 feet from the preferred route ROW, while the nearest residence to the alternate route ROW is located about 90 feet away, staff said.
No residences would need to be removed for construction or operation of the transmission line along either the preferred or alternate route, staff said, adding that the preferred route would cross 35 properties, while the alternate route would cross 33 properties.
Aesthetic impacts would vary with the viewer and setting, depending on the degree of contrast between the proposed line and the existing landscape, staff said.
The preferred route crosses about eight acres of agricultural land (9% of the preferred route), and the alternate route crosses about 0.6 acres of agricultural land (1% of the alternate route), staff said.
No parks would be crossed by the preferred or alternate route, and no schools or hospitals were identified within 1,000 feet of the preferred or alternate route, staff said. Both the preferred and alternate routes are located within 1,000 feet of the Wayne National Forest, but neither ROW would be located within Wayne National Forest land, staff said.
No negative impacts to institutional or recreational land uses are expected from the construction, operation, or maintenance of either the preferred or alternate route, staff said.
The company’s cultural resources consultant stated that there are no known cultural resources, such as archaeological sites, located within the proposed 100-foot ROW for the project, staff said, noting that while one known archaeological site was identified within 1,000 feet of the preferred and alternate routes, the site is not located within 100 feet of either route.
Staff also said, for instance, that the company will complete Phase I cultural resources field work-studies for the project.
The preferred route ROW crosses 28 wetlands, with 3.1 total acres of wetland within the ROW, while the alternate route ROW crosses 11 wetlands, with 0.2 acres of wetland within the ROW, staff said. The company did not observe any lakes, reservoirs, or ponds along the construction corridor of either route, staff said.
Due to a lack of suitable habitat and no proposed in-water work, impacts to state- and federal-listed aquatic, reptile, and amphibian species are not anticipated, staff said.
The project area is within the range of the state and federal endangered Indiana bat and the federal threatened northern long-eared bat. Staff added that in order to avoid impacts to the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat, staff recommends that the company adhere to the seasonal tree cutting dates of Oct. 1 through March 31 for all trees over three inches in diameter.
Among other things, staff recommended that the facility be installed on the company’s preferred route, and that the company conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities.
Another recommendation calls for the company to – within 60 days after the start of commercial operation – submit to staff a copy of the as-built specifications for the entire facility.
Staff also noted that the certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for the project 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 issuance of the certificate.