The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff, in a March 18 report filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board, said that AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s (AEP Ohio Transco) proposed Ross-Ginger Switch 138-kV Transmission Line Rebuild Project would allow the transmission system to provide safe and reliable electric service.
“Staff recommends that the board find that the basis of need for the project has been demonstrated and therefore complies with” certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the proposed project include conditions specified in the staff report, staff said.
As noted by staff, AEP Ohio Transco is an affiliate of AEP Ohio/Ohio Power Company, and is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).
AEP Ohio Transco last December filed an application seeking approval for the rebuild project in Ross County, Ohio. The project is part of the company’s broader Ross-Jackson Area Improvements Project, which aims to modernize and improve the reliability of the company’s transmission system in Ross and Jackson counties, staff added.
Staff noted that the proposed Ross-Ginger Switch project involves installing a new 138-kV, overhead electric transmission line between the Ginger Switch station and the existing Poston-Ross Transmission Line, north of County Road 222 (Narrows Road). To meet 138-kV standards, the company has proposed a 100-foot right of way (ROW) for the new line, which would incorporate steel poles for support.
Once completed, the new line would replace the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV Transmission Line, which has been in service since 1926, and serves areas within Ross and Jackson counties, staff added. The 69-kV line, consisting of wood H-frame structures, would be taken out of service, staff said, adding that the new 138-kV line would operate at 69 kV until 138-kV standards would be needed to serve customer load.
The company’s preferred route is about 4.8 miles long, and predominantly parallels the southern edge of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV Transmission Line. The new line would be offset by about 25 feet to 50 feet from the centerline of the existing 69-kV line in order to ensure safer construction, while allowing the existing line to remain in service during construction.
The preferred route exits the Ginger Switch station and follows the existing 69-kV line to the northwest for about 3.8 miles. Staff added that the preferred route continues to the north in order to avoid crossing a different transmission line, and then reconnects with the alignment of the Berlin-Ross 69-kV Transmission Line for one mile, utilizing the existing centerline to the existing Poston-Ross 138-kV Transmission Line structure number 235.
As TransmissionHub reported last December, the preferred route has a total estimated cost of about $10.1m.
Discussing land use, staff noted that there are 29 residences within 1,000 feet of the preferred route centerline, none of which are located within the potential disturbance area; four structures are located within 200 feet of the preferred route centerline.
Both routes would cross 25 properties, and include 58 acres of proposed right-of-way area, staff said, adding that about 41% of the preferred route and 40% of the alternate route cross agricultural land and open land/pasture. As the purpose of the project is to rebuild an existing transmission line, permanent additional impacts to agricultural fields would be minimal, staff said.
The preferred and alternate routes both cross a portion of the Ross Lake Wildlife Area, with 18 linear feet of the preferred route and 145 linear feet of the alternate route crossing that wildlife area, staff said. The preferred route is located on less acreage of the Ross Lake Wildlife Area due to the southerly shift of the preferred route from the existing centerline, staff noted. No schools, hospitals, churches nor civic buildings were identified as being within 1,000 feet of the preferred or alternate routes, staff said. No negative impacts to institutional and recreational land uses are expected from the construction, operation, or maintenance of either the preferred or the alternate routes for the project, according to staff.
Discussing threatened and endangered species, staff noted that the project area is within the range of the 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. In order to avoid impacts to the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat, staff said that it recommends that the company adhere to seasonal tree cutting dates of Oct. 1 through March 31, for all trees over three inches in diameter. The project would not disturb any hibernacula, including caves or abandoned mines, staff said.
Due to a lack of suitable habitat and no proposed in-water work, impacts to other federal and state listed species are not anticipated, according to staff.
Staff also noted that the alternate route, while buildable, would require a much longer timeframe to build. Due to outage constraints that would be required to take the existing line out of service, only smaller segments of the route would be able to be built during shorter windows of time, staff said. That would more than double the project timeline, potentially increasing the cost and taking longer to alleviate issues of need for the rebuild transmission project, staff said.
Staff said that therefore, it concludes that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact when compared to the alternate route.
Among other things, the recommended conditions of certificate included in staff’s report note that the facility is to be installed on the company’s preferred route, and that the company is to conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities.
In addition, staff said that the company is to re-coordinate with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Ohio Department of Transportation once final pole locations and heights are determined for the project.
Article amended at 5:23 p.m., EST, on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, to note that the report was done by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff.