American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) AEP Ohio Transmission Company on March 29 filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) an application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for the Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner 138-kV Transmission Line Project in Jackson County, Ohio.
As noted in the filing, the project is externally known as the Coal Township 138-kV Transmission Line Project and is part of the overall Ross-Jackson County Area Improvements Project, which has been implemented to improve the reliability of the electric transmission grid in Ross and Jackson counties in Ohio.
The Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner project involves rebuilding 3.6 miles of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line to 138-kV standards. The company added that construction of the project would be phased and is anticipated to begin in fall 2020 and end in spring 2023, with restoration continuing through summer 2023. Upon completion of the new line, the existing 69-kV transmission line is planned to be removed.
The company also said that the purpose of the project is to replace aging equipment with modern structures and wires to improve electric service reliability. The existing Berlin-Ross line was built in 1926, and will be retired and replaced with a new 138-kV transmission line, although it would be initially energized at 69 kV. The benefits of the project include faster recovery of service after outages, fewer service interruptions, and overall improved service to customers, the company added.
The project is located within Coal and Liberty townships in Jackson County. The study corridor for the rebuild siting evaluation does not cross any designated communities or otherwise incorporated municipalities, the company added, noting that the project will require a 100-foot-wide permanent right of way (ROW).
The project’s 3.6-mile preferred route begins at the existing Pine Ridge Switch and proceeds southeast, paralleling the southern edge of the existing Berlin-Ross line ROW through forested and agricultural land uses for about 0.9 mile.
The company added that the preferred route then aligns with the existing 69-kV line before crossing U.S. Highway 35 (US 35) and continuing on the existing centerline for 0.3 mile. After the US 35 crossing, the preferred route continues southeast, paralleling the northern edge of the existing Berlin-Ross line ROW through forested and agricultural land uses for 0.8 mile. The company added that the preferred route then crosses to the southern edge of the existing ROW. The preferred route parallels the southern edge of the existing 69-kV ROW through forested and agricultural land uses and rural residential areas for 1.6 miles before reaching its southern terminus at the proposed Heppner Switch Station, the company said.
The total estimated applicable intangible and capital costs of the preferred route is about $8.4m.
The company also said that the project area is largely forested, with interspersed agricultural, scrub-shrub, and rural residential areas; there are no commercial or industrial lands within the project area.
The preferred route is located within 1,000 feet of 30 residences, none of which are within the planned potential disturbance area. The company added that the preferred and alternate routes are located within 1,000 feet of four commercial buildings, none of which are within the planned disturbance area.
The company noted that based on the results of the cultural resources desktop review and field surveys impacts to known cultural resources associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed project are not anticipated.
Among other things, the company said that Ohio Department of Natural Resources records of state- and federally listed species, provided last August, indicated records of seven species located within a one-mile radius of the project that were state or federally listed.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (referred to in the filing as USFWS), there are no federal wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, or designated critical habitat within the project’s vicinity. The company added that USFWS also confirmed that two federally listed bat species may occur in the project area and recommended winter tree clearing – Oct. 1 through March 31 – to avoid adverse effects to those species. The company said that it proposes to adhere to that seasonal tree clearing restriction.