The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff, in a Sept. 25 report filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), recommended that the OSPB find that AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s (AEP Ohio Transco) preferred route for the Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner 138-kV Transmission Line Project represents the minimum adverse environmental impact, and therefore complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the proposed facility include certain conditions.
As noted in the report, AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) filed an application for the project in March. The company estimates the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route at about $8.4m, staff said.
The proposed project involves installing a new 138-kV, overhead electric transmission line between the existing Pine Ridge Switch and proposed Heppner substation. Both routes proposed by the company largely make use of the right of way (ROW) of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line, staff added. To meet 138-kV standards, a 100-foot ROW is proposed by the company for the new line, which would incorporate steel poles for support.
Once completed, the new line would replace about 3.6 miles of 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. With installation of the new 138-kV line, the 69-kV line would then be taken out of service, staff said, noting that the new 138-kV line would operate at 69 kV until 138-kV service would be needed to serve customer load.
The company’s preferred route is about 3.6 miles long and predominantly parallels either the northern or southern edge of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV line ROW. Staff added that 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 allow the existing line to remain in service during construction.
The preferred route exits the Pine Ridge Switch and follows the existing 69-kV line, along the southern edge of the ROW for about 0.9 mile. The preferred route then aligns with the alternate route – centerline of the Berlin-Ross line – for about 0.3 miles as the line crosses U.S. Highway 35, staff added. The preferred route then crosses the existing Berlin-Ross line to the northern edge of ROW and continues for about 0.8 miles to the southeast. The preferred route crosses to the southern edge of ROW for the existing Berlin-Ross line for about 1.6 miles southeast to the proposed Heppner station, staff added.
The OPSB approved the Hepper station project in March in another case, Case No. 17-0806-EL-BLN, and is not yet under construction.
Discussing the need for the Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner project, staff noted that the proposed facility is part of the company’s broader Ross-Jackson Area Improvements Project, which is designed to modernize and improve the reliability of the company’s transmission system in Ross and Jackson counties.
Noting that the existing 69-kV line has a poor performance history and extended outage recovery times, staff said that the proposed Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner project would improve reliability with fewer service interruptions, improved service to customers, and faster recovery time during outages.
Staff said that it recommends that the OPSB 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 facility include certain conditions.
Staff also recommended that the OPSB find that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact, and therefore complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB include certain conditions.
Those conditions include that the facility be installed on the company’s preferred route; that the company conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities; and that the certificate is to become invalid if the company has not commenced a continuous course of construction of the proposed facility within five years of the date of journalization of the certificate.
Staff also said that other recommended conditions include that the company is to adhere to seasonal cutting dates of Oct. 1 through March 31 for removal of any trees greater than or equal to three inches in diameter, unless coordination efforts with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allow a different course of action.