The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in a Dec. 6 report filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), issued various recommendations for Virginia Electric and Power’s (Dominion Energy Virginia) proposed Dooms-Valley Line #549 500-kV Transmission Line Rebuild project, including that the company should conduct an on-site delineation of wetlands and stream crossings within the project area with verification by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As noted in the report, the company has submitted an application to the SCC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to rebuild about 17.7 miles of the existing line, which is located between the existing Dooms substation and Valley substation in Augusta County, Va.
The purpose of the project is to comply with mandatory NERC reliability standards by increasing transmission capacity and replacing aging infrastructure. The DEQ added in its report that the project proposes to remove the existing 500-kV “COR-TEN” weathering steel lattice structures of Line #549 that were originally built in 1964-1966, and replace them with new double-circuit, galvanized structures that would support the 500-kV line with 230-kV underbuild, which would allow for future load growth.
Additionally, the existing 2-2049.5 bundled AAAC conductors of Line #549 would be removed and replaced with three triple-bundled 1351.5 ACSR phase conductors. The DEQ further noted that the project would occur entirely within the existing variable-width right of way (ROW) that has been in continuous use since the original construction of the corridor in the 1960s; the corridor is primarily located in a rural area with agricultural operations and scattered residences.
Among the agency recommendations, the DEQ said that it recommends that wetland and stream impacts should be avoided and minimized to the maximum extent practicable. Stream impacts should be minimized or avoided by spanning the transmission line across each stream, and no foundations should be placed within streambeds, the DEQ said.
Discussing natural heritage resources, the DEQ said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (referred to in the report as FWS) identified the federally listed threatened northern long-eared bat as potentially occurring within the rebuild project area. However, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) records indicate no known hibernacula or maternity roost trees within the project vicinity, the DEQ said.
The FWS also indicates that the federally listed endangered Indiana bat occurs within the project area, the DEQ said, adding that the rebuild project would occur within an existing maintained ROW and tree removal would be limited to certain trees, for instance. Any clearing would take place outside of the time-of-year (TOY) restriction for the Indiana bat (June 1-July 31), the DEQ said, adding that a similar TOY restriction is recommended by the FWS for the northern long-eared bat.
Other threatened and endangered species identified as potentially occurring within the project area include the bald eagle, the DEQ said, noting that since all of the work would occur in an existing cleared and maintained ROW, adverse impacts and loss of significant habitat are not expected.
Discussing historic and archaeological resources, the DEQ noted that one previously identified archaeological site recommended not eligible for listing and two unevaluated archaeological sites were identified in the ROW. The DEQ also said that 300 previously identified architectural resources are located within a 1.5-mile radius of the project centerline. Also, there are two National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)-listed resources and three resources that have been determined eligible for NRHP listing within a one-mile radius of the project corridor.
The DEQ added that its supplement included with the application does not indicate that adverse impacts would occur to those resources.
Among other things, the DEQ said that the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) supports the option for chemically dulled double-circuit lattice towers, noting that that alternative would not require the acquisition of new ROW. The company has stated that it would not oppose the approval of that option for visual mitigation purposes, the DEQ said.