Power system upgrade

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Di Krivchenia, of Marietta, hikes up the hill behind Colegate Woods Drive where AEP’s transmission upgrade project for southeast Ohio is underway with clearing and grading complete and ready for a new substation Wednesday.

As weather warms, the first signs of a long-term plan to upgrade electricity reliability not only for Marietta, but all of Washington, Noble and Monroe counties are being noticed, and the plans have some residents concerned about the impact on their properties.

The overall Southeast Ohio Area Improvements Project by American Electric Power is designed to upgrade an outdated and unreliable 23-kilovolt infrastructure that is in need of improvements for reliability. The company plans to invest $110 million in the overall project to a 138-kV infrastructure through 2022.

Up on the hill behind Colegate Woods Drive in Marietta, Larry Bradfield, 78, who lives on the street, said he thought the trucks he saw last week were just for small tree trimming.

“I noticed they were up there doing tree work,” he said. “I didn’t think anything about it.”

But up the hill, and a muddy access road, there’s a different story.

Past what once was the Pioneer Trail through dense woods sits a muddy hill, topped with wood chips and a graded hillside prepped for the construction of a new substation.

“My concern is, though I don’t walk much out in the woods anymore, I can see where it would hinder people that use the trail,” said Bradfield.

That new substation– called the Devola Substation though it sits within city limits– will serve as the central hub for the upgraded lines stretching not only north to Macksburg following part of the Muskingum River, but also northeast through Monroe County, explained Project Outreach Specialist Erin Miller.

Phil Fulmer, a Glendale Extension resident whose property already has an AEP line running through the back of it, said he’s not only worried about what the upgrades will do to his property value with the immense size of the new metal H-frames needed for the line, but also what wear the planned work may have on city roads.

“The impact originally presented to us was almost negligible. We were told singular tall metal poles would be installed and they’d be barely noticeable,” said Fulmer.

Di Krivchenia, who also lives up Glendale Extension in Marietta, said she is more concerned about the expanse of the planned project, and the fact that many of her neighbors did not feel fully informed of the lines to be upgraded in their own backyards.

“I have solar, so I have to be connected to the AEP grid but I don’t use their power, so I don’t get a bill,” she explained Wednesday. “And many of my neighbors had no idea. I only heard from AEP for a survey of my property last year but then when I went to the public hearing at the library last week there wasn’t an opportunity to ask questions.”

Miller explained that inquiries and the ability to influence the final route decision is still available to the public.

Next week the project will be up for review at the Public Utilities Commission building in Columbus through the Ohio Public Siting Board.

“I plan to go, but apparently if you don’t have a lawyer you can’t speak there,” said Krivchenia.

Miller said the opportunity to provide feedback for review by the OPSB prior to the route decision is available through written comments, calls and online comments mentioning the project’s case number.

“The board could still even now pick the alternate route, they’ll take the comments made at the public hearings, along with our package and any other comments filed under the case into account,” she explained. “We only right now have a certificate from the OPSB for the Devola Substation that’s been applied for environmental compatibility.”

Miller said the projects are long-term, though building on the site behind Colegate Woods should pick up as summer comes.

“Then it should take a month after the second hearing next week to get a decision from the board between our preferred route and alternate,” she said.

The preferred route maintains a right of way of 50 feet on either side of the H-frames designed to uphold not only the weight of the new lines but also the 12-mile stretch between Devola and Bells Ridge substations. But the alternate route (as named by AEP) may be more preferred locally.

“Their preferred route goes right through a neighborhood, and when that’s just singular poles it’s one thing, not when it’s 80-foot high H-frames,” said Krivchenia.

“I’d like to see the city and county get more involved in this,” added Fulmer.

For more information about the entire Southeast Ohio Improvements Project visit: aeptransmission.com/ohio/SoutheastOhio.

For more information on the Marietta substation and connection northeast visit: aeptransmission.com/ohio/BellRidge-Devola.

How to get involved

¯ Public adjudicatory hearings for the portions of the power line upgrades headed northeast from Marietta will take place this month.

¯ These hearings are open to the public and will be held at the offices of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Hearing Room 11-D, 180 E. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio 43215.

¯ The Devola-Bell Ridge case will be heard at 10 a.m. on Monday.

¯ The Rouse-Bell Ridge case will be heard 10 a.m. on June 28.

¯ For inquiries and to submit comments reference case numbers 17-1907-EL-BTX (Devola-Bell Ridge) and 17-1908-EL-BTX (Rouse-Bell Ridge) , when contacting Matt Butler at the Ohio Public Siting Board via:

¯ Phone: 614-644-7670.

¯ Mail: The Ohio Power Siting Board c/o Matt Butler, 180 East Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215.

¯ Online: https://www.opsb.ohio.gov/Contact-Us/

Source: American Electric Power and the Ohio Power Siting Board.