Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff, in a Sept. 18 report filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), recommended that the OPSB find that the basis of need for AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s (AEP Ohio Transco) proposed Vigo-Pine Ridge Switch 138-kV Transmission Line rebuild project has been demonstrated and therefore complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB include certain conditions.
As noted in staff’s report, AEP Ohio Transco filed an application for the project in March. The company proposes to build the project in Ross and Jackson counties in Ohio. Staff added that the project involves installing a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the existing Vigo Switch and Pine Ridge Switch. To meet 138-kV standards, a 100-foot right of way (ROW) is proposed by the company for the new line, which would incorporate steel poles for support.
Once completed, staff added, the new line would replace about 10.3 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. With installation of the new line, the 69-kV line would then be taken out of service. The new 138-kV line, staff added, would operate at 69 kV until 138-kV service would be needed to serve customer load.
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. Staff also noted that the proposed Vigo-Pine Ridge Switch project would improve reliability with fewer service interruptions, improved service to customers, and faster recovery time during outages.
The company’s preferred route for the project is about 10.3 miles long and predominantly parallels either the northern or southern edge of the existing Berlin-Ross line ROW. 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, staff added.
The preferred route exits the Vigo Switch substation and follows the existing 69-kV line along the southern edge of the ROW for about 2.1 miles. Staff also said that the preferred route then crosses the existing Berlin-Ross line to the northern edge of ROW and continues for about 1.8 miles to the southeast. The preferred route then aligns with the alternate route – centerline of the Berlin-Ross line – near County Road 27 – Bronx Corner Road – and continues southeast for about 1.2 miles.
Staff added that the preferred route makes one adjustment away from the centerline in order to avoid an outbuilding, located just south of U.S. 35. The preferred route continues along the southern edge of ROW for the existing Berlin-Ross line for about 5.2 miles southeast to the existing Pine Ridge Switch.
Staff recommended that the facility be installed on the company’s preferred route, utilizing the equipment, construction practices, and mitigation measures as presented in the application filed in March, and further clarified by recommendations in the report.
Staff also said that the company estimates the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route at about $20.7m.
Staff said that it recommends that the OPSB find that the company has determined the nature of the probable environmental impact for the proposed facility, and therefore complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the facility include certain conditions.
Among those conditions, the company is to conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities. Also, staff said, prior to commencement of construction, the company is to prepare a residential landscape restoration plan that addresses impacts to mature residential screening vegetation.
In addition, another recommended condition calls for the company 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 with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allow a different course of action.
Among other things, staff said that one condition calls for 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.