Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff on June 13 recommended that the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) find that the basis of need for AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s (AEP Ohio Transco) Herlan-Blue Racer 138-kV Transmission Line has been demonstrated and therefore complies with specified requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB include certain conditions.
As noted by staff in its report filed with the OPSB, AEP Ohio Transco would own, build, operate, and maintain the proposed line in Monroe County, Ohio. The company filed its application in January, staff said.
The proposed project involves the installation of a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the Herlan switching station in Seneca Township, which is under construction, and the existing Blue Racer substation in Franklin Township, staff said.
In order to meet 138-kV standards, the company has proposed a 100-foot right of way (ROW) for the new line, which would incorporate steel H-frame structures for support, staff said.
The proposed facility would be built in order to maintain and improve reliability on the transmission system in Noble and Monroe counties, staff said, adding that the bulk electric system and the sub-transmission system have experienced above average load growth primarily related to the Utica Shale industry, causing the system to experience thermal overloads and low voltage violations. The proposed project would improve operation and establish a more reliable system under certain contingencies by eliminating thermal overloading and low voltages, according to the report.
The preferred route, which is about 3.3 miles long, exits the Herlan switching station to the southwest for about 0.3 mile and crosses State Route (SR) 78. After crossing SR 78, staff added, the route turns to the southeast and parallels State Route 78 for about 0.7 mile. The route continues to follow SR 78 to the southwest, crossing twice to avoid constraints for about one mile, staff said. The route then turns to the southeast paralleling the existing Summerfield-Berne 138-kV transmission line ROW for 1.3 miles before terminating at the Blue Racer substation, staff said.
The company estimates that the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route are about $6.4m, and about $7m for the alternate route, staff said.
The primary land use crossed is woodlots, or forest cover, staff said, adding that the project would cause direct impacts to land use, including site clearing and loss of vegetation, as well as indirect impacts to land use, such as increased demand for housing and services caused by construction activities, job growth, or population change.
The preferred route has one residence within 500 feet, compared to no residences within 500 feet for the alternate route, staff said, adding that project construction is not expected to require removal of any residences or cause any permanent impacts to residential or other structures.
Other than one cemetery that was identified within 300 feet of the project area, there are no known archaeological sites that were identified within 0.25 mile of the preferred route. There are two architectural resources that were identified within 0.25 mile of the preferred route, but no such resources were identified within the ROW, staff added.
Discussing ecological impacts, staff noted that the project area is within the range of state and federal endangered Indiana bat and the federal threatened northern long-eared bat. As a tree roosting species in the summer months, the habitat of those species may be impacted by the project, staff said. In order to avoid impacts to the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat, staff recommended that the company adhere to seasonal tree cutting dates of Oct. 1 through March 31 for all trees over three inches in diameter. The company said that they intend to conduct all tree clearing during the restricted period of Oct. 1 through March 31, staff added.
Among the recommended conditions, staff said that the company is to conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities, and that 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.
Also, 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 issuance of the certificate, staff said.
Staff noted that while a local public hearing had been scheduled for June 28 at Shenandoah High School in Sarahsville, Ohio, due to construction work at the school, the public hearing has been scheduled for June 28 at Monroe Central High School in Woodsfield, Ohio.
An evidentiary hearing will begin on July 12 at the PUCO offices in Columbus, Ohio, staff said.