An Arkansas Public Service Commission administrative law judge (ALJ), in an April 18 order, approved a motion filed by Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) that requested that the commission waive a hearing regarding AECC’s proposed transmission project in Van Buren County, Ark.
As noted in the order, AECC in December 2018 filed with the commission an application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need (CECPN) for the construction, ownership, and operation of a new 161-kV switching station, an 18-mile, 161-kV transmission line, and a 161-69-kV substation.
A hearing on the matter was scheduled for May 16, the ALJ said, adding that AECC on April 18 filed a motion to submit the docket for commission approval on the evidentiary record and waive the hearing.
AECC said in its motion that regulatory staff agrees to waive the hearing, that there have been no interventions in the docket, and that the time for intervention has passed. The ALJ added that a staff witness filed direct testimony recommending approval of AECC’s CECPN application.
Noting that the May 16 hearing is canceled, the ALJ said that a ruling will be made on the evidentiary record.
As TransmissionHub reported, commission staff on March 15 told the commission that it has determined that the facilities proposed by AECC “are needed and in the public interest.”
AECC proposes to build the Clinton West 161-kV transmission switching station, consisting of a ring bus configuration with at least four breaker positions. Two of the breaker positions would serve as the in and out connections to the existing Entergy Arkansas, LLC’s Quitman to Hilltop 161-kV transmission line, which is presently serving the Clinton West substation, staff added. The third breaker position would serve the existing 161-69-kV Clinton West substation, while the fourth breaker position would serve as the connection for the proposed 161-kV transmission line to the Partain substation.
The 161-kV line would extend from the Clinton West transmission switching station to the Partain substation, staff added, noting that AECC would use H-frame structures using weathering type steel poles in wooded areas, placed 500 to 800 feet apart. Galvanized poles would be used in urban areas, particularly in the Fairfield Bay area, to minimize aesthetic displeasure, staff said.
AECC has indicated that the facilities in the docket are phase one of a project that would extend 161-kV transmission service from the Partain substation east to AECC’s Heber Springs North substation completing a transmission loop.
The route generally parallels an existing 69-kV transmission line owned by PJECC and requires a new right of way (ROW) width of 60 feet, staff added, noting that in three areas, minor deviations from paralleling the PJECC ROW are required and would require a 100-foot-wide ROW.
AECC has an expected in-service date for the project of Dec. 1, 2020. Staff added that the cost of the proposed facilities is estimated to be $28m – that is, $4m for the switching station; $20m for the transmission line; and $4m for the Partain transmission substation.
The proposed facilities would be under a Midcontinent ISO (MISO)-tariffed facility, and as such, it is anticipated that 70% of the proposed facilities’ annual cost would be recovered through MISO’s network transmission revenue. Revenues received from tariffed transmission facilities are returned directly to AECC’s member cooperatives, staff added, noting that that revenue offset means that AECC’s member cooperatives are impacted only by the net difference or about 30% of the proposed facilities’ annual cost.
Staff said that no impact to local land use is anticipated, except for the portion of forested areas that are converted to emergent areas. Revegetation of the disturbed areas is the only land use mitigation measure that would be deployed, staff said.
Noting that the line would cross but not impact floodplains, staff said that the proposed line would impact only a small portion of wetland areas. Also, since the line is located along private property, there would be no impacts to public recreational areas. Similarly, the substation sites are located on privately owned property and therefore have no impact on public recreational areas, staff said.
While the line would require clearing and construction that would require disturbances of grasslands, forested areas, and other vegetation, no significant effect on local wildlife is expected, including any unrecorded protected species that may occur in the project area, staff said. Likewise, the construction of the substations is not expected to significantly affect local wildlife, including any unrecorded protected species that may occur in the project area.
Among other things, staff also noted that AECC initiated correspondence with five Tribes, including the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, which asks that if artifacts or human remains are discovered, that work would cease and for the company to immediately contact the Quapaw Tribe Historic Preservation Office.
Staff said that based upon its on-site observations, its review of aerial and street imagery, the fact that the proposed route generally follows existing roadways, section lines, as well as property and other natural boundaries, it concludes that the proposed route is reasonable.
Staff recommended that the commission grant AECC a CECPN to build, own, and operate the proposed facilities, and that the commission grant a variance not to exceed 500 feet in order to accommodate legitimate concerns and objections of property owners whose land is being traversed, provided that any deviation from the approved route does not traverse a landowner not previously noticed as being traversed, does not involve a significant cost increase, and does not prevent AECC from conforming the location of the line as closely as possible to existing land use and property lines.