The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on Nov. 7 filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission recommendations concerning Virginia Electric and Power’s (Dominion Energy Virginia) proposed Fudge Hollow-Low Moor Line #112 and East Mill-Low Moor Line #161 138-kV Transmission Line Partial Rebuild project.
As noted in the filing, Dominion has submitted an application to the commission for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project in Alleghany County and the City of Covington, which involves:
- Rebuilding, entirely within an existing right of way (ROW), Virginia Department of Transportation ROW, or on Dominion-owned property, about 1.4 miles of the existing 138-kV overhead transmission Lines #112 and #161, which are collocated primarily on steel towers running from the existing Fudge Hollow Station to the existing Covington substation
- Rebuilding three existing structures between the Covington substation and the Line #112 and #161 Junction entirely within existing ROW
* Rebuilding, entirely within existing ROW, about 3.9 miles of the existing 138-kV overhead transmission Line #112 on steel towers running from the Line #112 and #161 Junction to the Line #112 and #133 Junction
- Replacing existing shield wire within the entire existing 7.3-mile, 138-kV overhead transmission corridor between the company’s existing Fudge Hollow and Low Moor substations, which contains Line #112 and a segment of Line #161 and Line #133, with one fiber optic shield wire, which will facilitate Dominion network telecommunications between the Fudge Hollow substation and Low Moor substation
- Performing minor work at the existing Fudge Hollow, Covington, and Low Moor substations, including conductor and connector replacement
The DEQ added that Line #112 was built in the 1920s. The single- and double-circuit structures that will be replaced include 33 steel lattice structures that have been identified for rebuild based on the company’s assessment in accordance with the company’s mandatory transmission planning criteria.
The DEQ also said that if the commission decides to grant the certificate, irrespective of the alternative selected, the DEQ offers certain recommendations, including that the company conduct an on-site delineation of wetlands and streams within the project area with verification by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Discussing water quality and wetlands, for instance, the DEQ said that according to the DEQ-Office of Wetlands and Stream Protection (OWSP), wetland areas and stream corridors were identified within the existing transmission line alignment, based on a staff review of the unconfirmed wetland delineation prepared for Dominion by Stantec. The DEQ-OWSP recommends that structures should be sited to avoid wetlands to the extent practicable and should be sited outside of stream channels. Timbering debris should not be placed in wetlands or streams, the DEQ added, noting that it further recommends wetland and stream avoidance and minimization efforts, where practical, during project construction by, for instance, spanning wetlands and streams.
Of natural heritage resources, the DEQ said, for instance, that according to the “DEQ supplement,” the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Division of Natural Heritage (DNH) identified two protected species in the project area, including the Appalachian grizzled skipper. The document states that no instream work will be required, the DEQ said, adding that erosion and sediment control measures will be used to ensure protection of wetland and water resources. Therefore, no impacts to aquatic species are anticipated. The DEQ also said that Dominion will coordinate with the DCR-DNH prior to the start of work to avoid adverse effects to the Appalachian grizzled skipper.
Regarding general protection of wildlife resources, the DEQ said that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) offers certain recommendations to minimize the adverse impacts of linear utility project development on wildlife resources, including to:
- Maintain naturally vegetated buffers of at least 100 feet in width around wetlands and on both sides of perennial and intermittent streams, where practical
- Conduct significant tree removal and ground-clearing activities outside of the primary songbird nesting season of March 15 through Aug. 15
- Implement and maintain appropriate erosion and sediment controls throughout project construction and site restoration
Discussing conservation easements, the DEQ said that the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) finds that it holds open-space easements on five properties within 1.5 miles of the transmission line project area, with one of those easements being its largest in the county. VOF supports Dominion’s plan to rebuild the line through that rural segment of the project using shorter H-frame structures of brown weathering-steel, and believes that those design features will reduce the visual impact of the line on the area’s scenic quality.
The DEQ added that VOF, however, has concerns about the portion of the project proposed within the City of Covington and the use of taller steel monopole structures to replace the existing towers. VOF’s concern is most directly associated with one of its open-space easements located within 500 feet of the project area and outside the city limits to the west. The DEQ added that VOF supports the option for the replacement H-frame structures located between the Line #112 and #161 Junction and the Line #112 and #133 Junction to be made of weathering-steel, shaded brown in color, and to have a height that is shorter or that closely resembles the existing structure heights throughout that extent as much as possible.
VOF also advocates for those structures to use chemically dulled steel for cross arms and cross braces where galvanized steel is planned, the DEQ said, adding, “VOF recommends that the proposed monopole structures in the City of Covington be rebuilt with weathering steel that is shaded brown in color or chemically dulled to reduce reflectivity.”
Among other things, the DEQ noted that VOF is a public organization created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1966 to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land, or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space, and recreational areas of the state.