The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff, in a Sept. 26 report filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), recommended that the OPSB find that AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s (AEP Ohio Transco) preferred route for its proposed Seaman-Sardinia 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 staff’s report, AEP Ohio Transco filed an application for the project in April. A local public hearing in the matter has been scheduled for Oct. 11 in Sardinia, Ohio, while an evidentiary hearing will be held on Nov. 5 at the commission’s offices in Columbus, Ohio, staff said.
As noted in the report, the proposed project involves the installation of the new overhead electric transmission line between the existing Sardinia substation and the existing Hillsboro-Maysville 138-kV electric transmission line that runs north to south through Brown County, Ohio. 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. Staff also said that the new line would interconnect to the existing Hillsboro-Maysville 138-kV transmission line via a new 2-pole dead-end structure, which would be located on ROW owned by the company.
Once completed, the new line would replace the function of about 11.9 miles of the existing Seaman-Sardinia 69-kV Transmission Line, which serves Brown County, was built in 1938, and has a poor performance history. Staff also said that the existing Seaman-Sardinia line begins in the existing Sardinia substation and runs nearly straight east for 11.9 miles. With installation of the new 138-kV line, the 69-kV line would then be taken out of service and removed. Staff added that the new 138-kV line would operate at 138 kV.
The proposed facility is part of the company’s improvement plan to modernize and improve the reliability of the company’s transmission system in Brown County. Staff added that the village of Sardinia is served by 11.9-mile, 69-kV radial feed, and that the proposed facility would be a 4.5-mile, double-circuit, 138-kV transmission line. The reduced transmission line length should help to reduce exposure to outages, staff noted. The proposed project would be intended to improve reliability with fewer service interruptions, improved service to customers, and faster recovery time during outages, staff said.
Staff recommended 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 noted that the company’s preferred route is about 3.7 miles long and runs about 0.4 mile southeast along Katterman Road from the Sardinia substation. From there, staff said, the route turns northeast for about 2.1 miles through mostly agricultural land; continues northeast along the eastern edge of Shitepoke Road for about 0.5 mile; turns southeast along the southern edge of Stivers Road for 0.7 mile; and finally interconnects to the existing Hillsboro-Maysville 138-kV transmission line, slightly east of State Route 62.
The company estimates the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route are about $11.1m, staff said.
Discussing socioeconomic impacts, staff noted, for instance, that no schools, hospitals, nor state or federal recreational areas were identified as being within 1,000 feet of the preferred or alternate routes, and that research for the project resulted in identifying no historic structures, National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) nor previously identified archaeological sites within 1,000 feet of the preferred route. “Phase I” fieldwork for the preferred route identified three archaeological sites, which were determined not to be eligible for NRHP listing, staff said, adding that no further archaeological work was recommended by the company’s cultural resources consultant for the project.
Discussing ecological impacts, staff said, among other things, that potentially suitable habitat for the loggerhead shrike may be located within the project area. In order to minimize impacts to that species, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife recommends avoiding construction in areas of dense shrubbery during the species’ nesting period between April 1 and Aug. 1, staff said.
While the preferred and alternate routes are viable, they each have issues unique to one another, and no route is without impact, staff said, adding that it concluded that overall potential impact is expected to be less for the preferred route.
Staff noted that:
- The preferred route – which is 0.8 mile shorter than the alternate route – follows more existing ROW than the alternate route
- The number of residences within 1,000 feet of the preferred route is lower than the number within 1,000 feet of the alternate route
- Potential wetland and stream impacts are greater along the alternate route compared to the preferred route
Staff said that the recommended conditions include that the facility be installed on the preferred route, as presented in the April application and as clarified by staff’s recommendations. Another recommendation calls for the company to conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities. Staff added that other conditions include that the company contact staff, the ODNR, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within 24 hours if state or federal threatened or endangered species are encountered during construction activities.
The company states that it intends to begin construction of the project in late 2019, and complete construction by June 2021, staff said.