The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on May 30 filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission recommendations regarding Virginia Electric and Power’s (Dominion) proposed Mt. Storm-Valley Line #550 500-kV Transmission Line Rebuild project in Augusta and Rockingham counties.
As noted in the filing, the rebuild would occur entirely within an existing right of way (ROW) that is about 64.5 miles long, of which about 30.9 miles are located in Virginia, with the remaining portion of the line located in West Virginia.
The DEQ added that the line runs from its existing Valley substation in Augusta County to the company’s existing Mt. Storm substation in Grant County, W.Va. The project would include the completion of minor equipment replacement at the Valley substation and equipment replacement, as well as expansion, at the Mt. Storm substation. The DEQ added that it is proposing the removal of 258 single-circuit 500-kV weathering steel lattice towers, one 500-kV single-circuit weathering steel H-frame, and two 500-kV single-circuit galvanized steel lattice towers. The existing Line #550 includes 135 structures in West Virginia, 125 structures in Virginia, and one structure on the state line. The DEQ added that the project would replace the line with 261 galvanized steel lattice towers.
The DEQ recommended that prior to beginning project work, all wetlands and streams within the project corridor should be field delineated and verified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The DEQ also noted that according to the information currently in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s files, the German River – North Fork Shenandoah River – Bennett Run Stream Conservation Unit (SCU) is located within the project site and has a biodiversity significance ranking of B3, which represents a site of high biodiversity. The natural heritage resources of concern associated with that SCU include the Wood turtle, which is currently classified as threatened by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), the DEQ said, adding that threats to the significant aquatic natural community and the surrounding watershed include water quality degradation related to point and non-point pollution, water withdrawal, and introduction of non-native species.
The DEQ noted that if any instream work is proposed to occur in Cold Spring River, German River, Little Dry River, Bible Run, Spruce Lick Run, and Slate Lick Branch, whether resulting in temporary or permanent impact, the company should adhere to a time-of-year restriction from Oct. 1 through March 31 of any year. Also, prior to the commencement of work, the company should notify all contractors associated with work at the site of the possibility of encountering wood turtles and educate them of the appearance, status, and life of wood turtles, the DEQ said.
General recommendations include avoiding and minimizing impacts to undisturbed forest, wetlands, and streams to the fullest extent practicable; maintaining naturally vegetated buffers of at least 100 feet in width around all on-site wetlands and on both sides of all perennial and intermittent streams; as well as conducting significant tree removal and ground clearing activities outside of the primary songbird nesting season of March 15 through Aug. 15.
The DEQ also said, among other things, that the state Department of Historic Resources (DHR) concurs that the proposed project would have minimal impacts on two Virginia Landmarks Register/National Register of Historic Places-eligible architectural resources and recommends, for instance, that the company conduct comprehensive archaeological and architectural surveys in accordance with DHR guidelines by qualified professionals prior to construction of any commission-approved alternative.