American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) on March 29 filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) an application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for the Vigo-Pine Ridge Switch 138-kV Transmission Line Project in Ross and Jackson counties in Ohio.
As noted in the filing, the project is externally known as the Jackson 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.
The Vigo-Pine Ridge Switch project involves rebuilding 10.3 miles of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line to 138-kV standards, the company said.
Project construction would be phased and is anticipated to begin in fall 2019, and end in spring 2022, with restoration continuing through summer 2022. Upon completion of the new line, the existing 69-kV line is planned to be removed, the company added.
The purpose of the project is to replace aging equipment with modern structures and wires to improve electric service reliability, the company said, noting that the existing Berlin-Ross line was built in 1926. That existing line would be retired and replaced with the new 138-kV line, but it would be initially energized at 69 kV, the company said.
The benefits of the project include faster recovery of service after outages, fewer service interruptions, and overall improved service to customers, the company said.
Critical delays to the project would postpone reliability improvements for AEP Ohio Transco and Buckeye Rural Cooperative customers in the area, leaving them connected to one of the worst performing facilities in Ohio, the company said.
The project’s 10.3-mile preferred route begins at the existing Vigo substation, located east of C.R. 207 (Vigo Road), and proceeds southeast, paralleling the southern edge of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line right of way (ROW) through agricultural and forested land uses for about 2.1 miles. The company added that the preferred route then crosses to the northern/eastern edge of the existing ROW.
The preferred route parallels the northern/eastern edge of the existing ROW through agricultural and forested land uses and rural residential areas for about 1.8 miles. The company added that the preferred route then aligns with the existing 69-kV line near C.R. 27 (Bronx Corner Road) and continues about 1.2 miles through forested land use and rural residential areas. Within those 1.2 miles, the alignment incorporates a slight adjustment away from the existing 69-kV line to maximize distance between an outbuilding just sought of U.S. Highway 35.
The company added that the preferred route then proceeds southeast, paralleling the southern edge of the existing ROW through agricultural and forested land uses and rural residential areas for about 5.2 miles before reaching its southern terminus at the existing Pine Ridge Switch, which is located east of C.R. 21 (Oakland Road) and about five miles northeast of Jackson.
The preferred route has total estimated applicable intangible and capital costs of about $20.7m, the company said.
The preferred route is located within 1,000 feet of 121 residences, none of which are within the planned potential disturbance area, and within 1,000 feet of 13 commercial buildings, none of which are within the planned disturbance area, the company said.
There are 16 and 13 single family residences within 200 feet of the ROW of the preferred and alternate route, respectively. For the preferred route, the company added, six residences are within 50 feet of the ROW, two residences are between 51 and 100 feet of the ROW, four residences are between 101 and 150 feet of the ROW, and four residences are between 151 and 200 feet of the ROW.
Recreational land is not crossed by the centerline or ROW for either the preferred or alternate route, the company said, adding that about 2% – 1,082 feet – of the preferred route centerline crosses agricultural land. The company also noted that about two acres of agricultural land is located within the ROW of the preferred route.
The potential impacts of the project on agricultural land use include damage to crops that may be present, disturbance of underground field drainage systems, compaction of soils and temporary reduction of crop productivity, the company said. Soil compaction resulting from construction activities is typically a temporary issue and is resolved within a few seasons of plowing and tilling, the company said, adding that it would work with the agricultural landowners to resolve conflicts with drainage tiles and irrigation systems that are affected by the project where necessary.
The company also 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.
Noting that the proposed line would replace the existing Berlin-Ross line, the company said that the new line is not anticipated to incrementally have negative aesthetic impacts in the landscape.
Among other things, the company said that Ohio Department of Natural Resources records of state- and federally listed species, provided last August, indicated 17 state-listed species, potentially threatened species, or state species of concern have been identified within a one-mile radius of the project.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (referred to in the filing as USFWS) stated that there are no federal wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, or designated critical habitat within the project’s vicinity. The company added that the 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.