The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff, in an Oct. 27 report filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), concluded that AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) has demonstrated the basis of need for the proposed West Bellaire-Glencoe 138-kV Transmission Line Rebuild Project, which is a baseline project required by PJM Interconnection.
The project would reinforce the local transmission system and provide for future load growth, staff said, adding that the proposed facility would allow the transmission system to provide safe, reliable electric service, while meeting all the applicable planning criteria.
Staff said that it recommends that the OPSB find that the basis of need for the project has been demonstrated, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the proposed facility include certain conditions.
As noted in the report, AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) filed the application for the project in January, proposing to build, own, operate, and maintain the line in Belmont County, Ohio.
The stated purpose of the project is to improve the quality and reliability of electric service and expand the electric transmission system to meet anticipated growth in the Belmont County area for the near future.
Staff added that the company plans to place the line in service by July 2019.
The proposed project involves installing a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line for a distance of about six miles between the existing West Bellaire and Glencoe substations. According to the company, staff added, the project would consist of supporting structures and conductors for a double-circuit 138-kV transmission line, with one circuit to be initially energized at 69 kV. The 69-kV side would serve the company’s Neffs distribution substation, staff said, adding that the company expects that the steel poles would range in height from about 100 feet to 182 feet tall.
A significant portion of the proposed line would use the existing right of way (ROW), staff added, noting that to maintain service on the existing 69-kV transmission line, the proposed line would be built at an offset from the existing structures in the current ROW.
The rebuild section would initially share about 0.5 miles of the existing 138-kV line corridor that exits the West Bellaire substation. The rebuild section, staff added, would also include about 3.4 miles of the existing West Bellaire-Glencoe 69-kV line alignment. The existing ROW would be expanded to 100 feet wide to meet the standards for new 138-kV transmission line construction, staff said.
The preferred route for the project begins at the West Bellaire substation, extends north and west around the village of Neffs, and connects to the Neffs substation. The preferred route then extends generally west, rejoining the Glencoe-West Bellaire 69-kV ROW until it reaches the Glencoe substation, staff added.
In an area that also contains four American Transmission Systems, Inc., (ATSI) 138-kV lines, the preferred route deviates from the existing ROW to the north, and goes underground for about 0.1 mile to cross the existing transmission lines. Staff added that the preferred route then emerges to rejoin the existing 69-kV ROW to end at the Glencoe substation.
The company estimates the total applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route at about $22.5m, staff said.
The project area is surrounded by agricultural, wooded, and limited rural residential land uses, staff said, noting that 53 residences are located within 1,000 feet of the preferred route and rebuild section centerlines, of which one is within 100 feet – that residence would be demolished and removed. The company and the property owner have reached an agreement on sale of the property, staff said.
No cultural resources, significant architectural structures, or cemeteries were identified within 1,000 feet of the preferred route, but two archaeological sites are located within 30 feet of the rebuild section. Staff added that the company has obtained a consultant to conduct a full Phase I cultural resources survey and intends to cooperate with the State Historic Preservation Office on the survey’s findings.
Discussing surface waters, staff noted that the Rebuild Section of the proposed transmission line contains 22 streams, including five perennial streams, eight intermittent streams, and nine ephemeral streams. The rebuild section ROW contains 2,843 linear feet of streams within the ROW, staff said, adding that the preferred route ROW contains seven streams, including five intermittent streams and two ephemeral streams. The preferred route ROW contains 646 linear feet of streams within the ROW, staff said.
The proposed line would aerially span all streams, and no in-water work is expected, staff said.
Of threatened and endangered species, staff said, for instance, that due to a lack of suitable habitat and no proposed in-water work, impacts to federal and state-listed aquatic, reptile, and amphibian species are not anticipated.
The project area is within the range of state and federal endangered Indiana bat and the federal threatened northern long-eared bat. As tree roosting species in the summer months, the habitat of those species may be impacted by the project, staff said, adding that it 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.
The company states that it intends to conduct all tree clearing during the restricted period of Oct. 1 through March 31, staff said.
Staff noted that it recommends that the OPSB find that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the proposed facility include certain conditions.
Among other things, staff’s recommended conditions call for the company to conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities. Also, the certificate is to become invalid if the company has not commenced a continuous course of construction of the proposed facility within five years of the date of issuance of the certificate, staff said.
AEP Ohio Transco is an affiliate of AEP Ohio/Ohio Power Company, and is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP), as noted in the report.