Ohio Power Siting Board staff, in a recent report, said that it recommends conditional approval of an amendment proposed by AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) regarding the company’s approved Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner 138-kV Transmission Line Rebuild Project.
As noted in the filing, the board approved the project in February 2019, in Case No. 18-0031-EL-BTX.
The company proposed adjustments following final detailed engineering and property owner discussions during right of way (ROW) negotiations for the approved route, staff said, adding that the type of transmission equipment would not change. The company states that the economic impact would not change as a result of the adjustments, and that the need for the facility, as well as grid impacts associated with the facility, remain the same as was approved, staff said.
There are four segments of proposed engineering adjustments to the approved route, staff noted, adding that the proposed engineering adjustments include structure locations 164-165, 169-171, 174-176, and 178-183. The structure location shifts range from eight feet to 33 feet from the previously approved preferred centerline. Staff added that according to the company, all engineering adjustments would occur within the 100-foot ROW of the approved alignment.
Of the adjustment involving structures 164-165, for instance, staff said that the company is proposing a shift of those structure locations about 10 feet northeast of the originally approved centerline. Those “shifts are proposed in order to place the structures on more favorable terrain for access and constructability,” staff said.
Staff said that it finds that the proposed adjustments are not expected to significantly alter existing land uses, including agricultural land, or to increase the project’s estimated capital costs. With the proposed adjustments, the number of residential structures identified within 1,000 feet of the centerline would raise by one from 30 to 31, but would drop for residences located within 200 feet of the ROW from five to four, staff said. The nearest residence is located within 50 feet of the ROW, which remains the same as the original approved route, staff noted.
Discussing cultural resources, for instance, staff said that while no significant adverse impacts on historic structures are expected, archaeological sites are located adjacent to the original centerline, near the existing transmission line and proposed revised alignments for the project.
The Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO) concurs that the amended alignments would not be expected to impact historic structures, and recommends that the company conduct further archaeological investigations in order to confirm if the sites contain evidence of prehistoric habitation, staff said, adding that it “concurs with the recommendation that coordination with OHPO and staff should be completed prior to construction of this project.”
Among other things, staff said that it recommends approval of the amendment provided that certain conditions are satisfied, including that the company continue to adhere to all conditions of the opinion, order, and certificate for the project in Case No. 18-0031-EL-BTX, following the route as amended.
As TransmissionHub reported, in its order regarding the Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner project, the OPSB said that it adopts a stipulation and recommendation between AEP Ohio Transco and regulatory staff, and directs that a certificate be issued to the company to rebuild, to 138-kV standards, 3.6 miles of the Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line, located between the Pine Ridge switch and the proposed Heppner station in Jackson County.
As noted in the order, AEP Ohio Transco in March 2018 filed its application with the board for a certificate, stating that the proposed rebuild of the existing 69-kV transmission line to 138-kV standards will provide the benefit of faster recovery of service after outages, fewer service interruptions, and overall improved service to customers.
The project involves the installation of a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the Pine Ridge switch and the proposed Heppner station to 138-kV standards. The new line would replace 3.6 miles of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line, which has been in service since 1926, the OPSB added, noting that the line serves customers in Ross and Jackson counties.
Upon installation of the new line, the 69-kV line will be removed from service, and the new line will operate at 69 kV until customer load necessitates 138-kV service.
The OPSB added that AEP Ohio Transco identified a preferred and alternate route after conducting a rebuild siting study, with the preferred route being about 3.6 miles long.
The preferred route exits the Pine Ridge switch and follows the existing 69-kV line, along the southern edge of the ROW for about 0.9 miles, through forested and agricultural land. The OPSB also said that the preferred route then aligns with the alternate route for about 0.3 miles as the line crosses U.S. Highway 35. The line then crosses the Berlin-Ross line to the northern edge of the ROW and continues through forested and agricultural land for about 0.8 miles to the southeast. The line continues through forested, agricultural, and residential areas across the southern edge of the ROW of the Berlin-Ross line for about 1.6 miles southeast to the proposed Heppner station, the OPSB added.
AEP Ohio Transco estimates the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route at about $8.4m, and the alternate route at about $8.7m.
As part of the stipulation – which was presented at an adjudicatory hearing in October 2018 – the parties recommend that the OPSB issue the certificate requested by AEP Ohio Transco, subject to certain conditions, which include that the facility is to be installed on the preferred route, utilizing the equipment, construction practices, and mitigation measures as presented in the application filed in March 2018, and further clarified by recommendations in a staff report.