Appalachian Power on Nov. 13 said that it has received approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) for the company’s South Abingdon Extension project, which is an approximately $40m investment that involves building about four miles of 138-kV transmission line and a new substation, as well as upgrading three existing substations to improve reliability for area customers.
The project was originally announced in September 2015, the company said, noting that it engaged the community and property owners to help determine a line route for the project prior to submitting an application for approval in March 2016.
The new line starts at a connection point to an existing transmission line on the west side of Abingdon, and continues south across Interstate 81 into Washington County before turning east to an end point at the new substation on Vances Mill Road, the company said. About one mile of the line, which is in the vicinity of the Virginia Highlands Airport, will be underground, the company noted.
Transmission line construction is expected to begin next spring, and be completed by the end of 2018, while construction of the new substation will begin later this month, the company said.
The project is the first phase of the previously announced Abingdon and Washington County Area Improvements Project, the company said, adding that the second phase of the project is being evaluated.
As noted on the project’s website, the company received approval from the SCC on Oct. 20.
According to the SCC’s final order, the company said that the South Abingdon project consists of building the new line on new right of way (ROW) – about 3.8 miles long – between a tap point on the company’s existing Saltville-Kingsport 138-kV transmission line – about one-third of a mile southwest of the company’s existing Abingdon substation; the new South Abingdon substation to be built on Vances Mill Road in Washington County; as well as associated improvements to be made at the three existing substations, including buswork, switches, and related equipment.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in May 2016 filed with the SCC a report on the project that provided certain recommendations, including that the company should conduct an on-site delineation of all wetlands and stream crossings within the project area with verification by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, using accepted methods and procedures, as well as follow DEQ’s recommendations to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and streams.
The SCC also said that respondents in the case in September 2016 filed testimony that addressed concern for the portion of the project that would run aboveground perpendicular to the Virginia Highlands Airport runway and the potential negative economic effects that the project could have on local economies.
The company in April filed a motion and supplemental direct testimony that incorporated the FAA determinations and proposed a modification to the project that would place a portion of the project underground in the vicinity of the airport. The SCC added that the company’s motion noted that, with the proposed modification, the respondents have no objection to the project.
The SCC noted that its staff in May filed testimony, concluding that the company had reasonably demonstrated the need for the proposed project, and that the modified project minimizes impact on existing residences, scenic assets, historic districts, and the environment.
The SCC noted that a hearing examiner’s September report found, for instance, that the project is justified by the public convenience and necessity; there is no existing ROW available; as well as that the company’s preferred route for the line and location for the substation will reasonably minimize adverse impact on the scenic assets, historic districts, and environment of the area concerned, and should be approved.
The SCC said that it finds that the public convenience and necessity require that the company build the modified proposed project, and that a certificate of public convenience and necessity authorizing the project should be issued, subject to certain conditions.
Among other things, the SCC said that the company must comply with all of the DEQ’s recommendations as provided in the DEQ report with certain exceptions. The company is to use selective clearing methods to retain low-growth shrubs and other compatible vegetation within 50 feet of all year-round streams, ponds, or wetlands; 50 feet of road crossings; 100 feet of water supply wells; and 25 feet of karst features and outcrops of limestone and dolomite rocks.
The SCC also said that the restriction on significant tree removal between March 15 and Aug. 15 is not to be approved, except as necessary to accommodate federally or state-protected, threatened, or endangered species, as such a restriction would unduly limit the company’s ability to complete the modified project in a timely manner; potentially increase the cost; and raise concerns for worker safety due to the increased likelihood of clearing trees under adverse weather conditions.
The SCC said that the project must be built and in service by Dec. 31, 2018; however, the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.