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AEP set to work with landowners on new line

22 September 2009 1,248 views No Comment

Jack Roush’s cows graze under buzzing, crackling, 765-kilovolt power lines, and neither he nor the cows mind the arrangement.

Roush, 72, said the American Electric Power lines were running across the land when he started working at mother and daughter Lou and Ruth Pine’s dairy in 1971. He inherited the land from the Pines in 1991 and now raises 11 cows on 70 acres of grazing land.

The four acres under the lines have been cleared of all vegetation except for the grass Roush’s cows dine on.

“This is all for my benefit,” Roush, a former Union Carbide employee, said.

Soon, many more miles of West Virginia land could look like Roush’s property.

Earlier this year, AEP and Allegheny Energy filed an application seeking authorization to build a portion of the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline across West Virginia.

The proposed line would cross 13 West Virginia counties, including Kanawha and Putnam, three Virginia counties and Frederick County, Md.

AEP’s portion of the line would extend about 40 miles east from the John Amos substation in Putnam County. It would cross about 250 properties, including Camp Virgil Tate and the Edgewood Country Club golf course in Kanawha County.

AEP spokesman Jeff Parsley said the power company wouldn’t try to buy the properties from landowners. It would seek easements that would leave ownership in individuals’ hands but impose restrictions on land use. Usually, that means no structures can be built under power lines.

With landowners’ permission, surveying teams enter a property to determine a path for the power lines. Appraisers then size up the land to determine what owners should be paid.

“We sit down and we negotiate a fair market value,” Parsley said.

Parsley said 95 percent of landowners are willing to give the power company an easement. He called eminent domain proceedings a “very last resort.”

“We never tell anyone we’re going to take their property,” he said.

Parsley did say the companies utilize eminent domain when multiple heirs hold a property and some of the property’s owners can’t be found, as AEP’s policy requires it to obtain 100 percent owner agreement before setting up an easement on private property.

Once land is acquired, it’s sometimes cleared of vegetation to make way for the power lines.

Frank Forrest, of AEP Transmission Forestry, said workers don’t clear land where conductors are more than 100 feet off the ground, because trees in this region don’t typically grow high enough to interfere with the lines.

In areas where conductors hang lower than that, transmission forestry workers clear the land by hand-cutting and spraying herbicides.

Forrest said workers sometimes use backpacks to haul in the herbicides and then shoot individual plants with weed killer. In more densely vegetated areas, they use hoses. Occasionally, crews will use a helicopter.
“We try to do it the most effective way,” Forrest said.

Workers clear land near the extra-high-voltage lines on a four-year cycle, but fly over them twice a year to check for trouble spots.

Any timber cut from the property during clearing is left for the owners, who usually sell off the wood.

Forrest said it’s a good deal for landowners. When AEP purchases the right of way, it compensates owners for the value of their timber.

After it’s cut, owners can sell it and perhaps double their money.

Archie Pugh, a project manager at AEP, said the high-voltage line is needed to “shore up” the East Coast’s power grid, which he said could suffer major voltage drops in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania by mid-2014.

That could lead to blackouts and brownouts for power providers and widespread outages for consumers.

AEP engineer Bryant Hanft compared the PATH project to interstate construction.

Right now, he said, there are a lot of cars jammed on the freeway – companies are piping a lot of electricity through lines without a lot of capacity.

By adding some more “lanes” to the highway – adding more energy-carrying capacity to the power lines – more energy can be transmitted.

Project organizers plan to build four-legged steel frame towers across the western part of the state, because the terrain would require longer spans and the steel frames work better in mountainous areas.

Tubular towers, which look like regular wooden power poles except they are taller and made of rusted steel, would be built in the eastern part of the state. Pugh said PATH would use the smaller structures because 765-kilovolt lines would use the same towers as existing 138-kilovolt lines and they work well on flatter land.

Pugh said 765-kilovolt lines actually conserve land, compared to smaller-voltage power lines.

A 765-kilovolt line requires a 200-foot right of way. Transmitting that same amount of electricity would require six 345-kilovolt lines and a 900-foot combined right of way. It would take 15 138-kilovolt lines to transmit the same amount of power as a 765 line, requiring a 1,500-foot combined right-of-way.

The PATH power lines would be an upgraded version of the 765-kilovolt, four-conductor lines that run across Jack Roush’s farm. The new lines would have a bundle of six conductors that would increase electricity flow, cut down on radio and television interference and reduce the popping and cracking noises that characterize four-conductor bundle systems.

“The PATH project will be our most modern design,” Pugh said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.har…@dailymail.com”>zack.har…@dailymail.com.

by ZackĀ Harold

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