APSC General Staff recommend approval of Baltz Lake switching station

The Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) should grant Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build, own, and operate the Baltz Lake switching station in Randolph County, Ark., Jeffrey Roberts, professional engineer for the APSC General Staff, said in July 14 direct testimony filed with the APSC on staff’s behalf.

As TransmissionHub reported, AECC has requested an APSC order by Nov. 1, approving a CCN to build, own, and operate the new 161-kV tap switching station (Baltz Lake Project) on about 6.6 acres in Randolph County, Ark., to serve Clay County Electric Cooperative Corporation (CCECC).

AECC added in its May 31 application for a CCN filed with the APSC that if approved, the Baltz Lake Project would supply a new 161-kV transmission line (Ingram Line), about eight miles in length, to be built by CCECC to supply the new Ingram 161-24.9-kV substation.

AECC said that the Baltz Lake Project is required by the public convenience and necessity to provide CCECC with a new 161-kV point of delivery to serve its expanding loads in Clay and Randolph counties.

Roberts noted in his testimony that the proposed project – referred to in his filing as the proposed facilities – is needed to provide a transmission source for the new Ingram substation, proposed to be built by CCECC in order to alleviate loading on AECC’s Pocahontas East and West substations. In addition to providing a new transmission source for CCECC, AECC has noted that the proposed facilities would provide a transmission source for the Pocahontas Industrial Park as plans are to relocate the existing transmission feed from the Pocahontas East substation to the new Baltz Lake switching station in order to provide a ring bus connection for the transmission line, according to Roberts.

He noted that the proposed Baltz Lake Project is included in Appendix A of the Midcontinent ISO’s (MISO) 2015 Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP15) as Project ID 8420, which was approved by the MISO in December 2015.

The new transmission switching facility would consist of a ring bus configuration that would include four circuit breaker positions serving the future Ingram substation, Pocahontas Industrial Park, and providing connections to Entergy Arkansas, Inc.’s (EAI) existing Datto to Water Valley transmission line. EAI is a subsidiary of Entergy’s (NYSE:ETR).

The proposed facilities would be located adjacent to EAI’s Pocahontas North substation on property that AECC plans to obtain, Roberts said.

He noted that based on his review of the site, there did not appear to be any engineering or technical concerns with the proposed facilities’ location.

Noting that AECC consulted with the Arkansas State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and a cultural resources survey was conducted, Roberts said that results from the survey did not identify any cultural resources at the site of the proposed facilities.

Also, in accordance with a study plan that AECC submitted and was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a survey was conducted in May that included placing nets on the property to capture bats. The survey revealed zero listed bats, Roberts said, adding that there are no expected impacts to endangered bat species.

Noting that the site has one pond, one ephemeral stream, and one intermittent stream, Roberts said that according to a wetlands determination report, the pond is not an impoundment of a tributary stream, nor does it have a tributary exiting from it. The pond, which would likely not be considered a jurisdictional Water of the United States, would be avoided by construction; the ephemeral stream would be crossed by the temporary overhead transmission line connection planned for phase one that would be in place for about one year; and the intermittent stream would be crossed by overhead transmission line(s), he said.

The proposed facilities must be built in two phases to coordinate with EAI’s outage schedule of its line, he said.

According to a company witness, the primary existing manmade property in the area of the proposed facilities is for single family residential or small farming development, and small areas developed as subdivisions for single family homes. Roberts added that there is already utility use of the adjacent property with it being the site for EAI’s Pocahontas North distribution substation and the associated Datto to Water Valley line. The proposed facilities would be built adjacent to EAI’s distribution substation, Roberts said, noting that there is currently no development of the proposed site, and AECC does not expect any significant change in the property uses around the site as a result of the proposed facilities.

The site would be almost completely shielded from residential areas, which would reduce aesthetic impacts, he said.

Roberts said that there have been four comments objecting to AECC’s application received in the docket from one property owner affected by the proposed construction. The comments state that AECC’s use of the property damages the development potential for more area than AECC is requesting and renders the surrounding area useless for development, Roberts said, adding that the property owner asserts that AECC has not offered fair market compensation for the property.

Based on the evidence presented by company witnesses and the inclusion of the project in MTEP15, Roberts said he has “determined that the proposed facilities are needed and are in the public interest.”

He also said, “Given that the location of the proposed facilities has the fewest detriments as compared to the other sites considered, is adjacent to both EAI’s Pocahontas North substation and EAI’s Datto to Water Valley transmission line, and my evaluation of the commission’s seven factors, I conclude the location is reasonable.”

Those factors include engineering and technical concerns, he said.

Roberts also recommended that AECC be directed to comply with certain rules by filing the required completion or delay of construction reports, as well as that the PUC specify in its order that nothing in the proceeding be construed as a finding of value for rate-making purposes.

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.