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AEP wants to replace aging transmission line in eastern Franklin County

power lines

American Electric Power of Ohio is proposing construction of a new 138 kV transmission line on the east side of Franklin County in the Blacklick estates area to replace an aging line that frequent overloads.

The $21 million transmission line would replace the existing Refugee / Groves Road transmission line, which AEP states frequently overloads, violating National Electric Safety Codes and leading to millions of minutes of customer outages.

AEP’s application to build the line states the existing infrastructure can’t support the growing electric needs of the area and a third of the line structures are overloaded, according to the national safety code standards for heavy loading conditions.

The deteriorating conditions lead to more than two million minutes of customer outages between 2015 and 2020, according to an Ohio Power Siting Board staff report filed this month with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The $21 million transmission line would partially travel the route of the existing transmission line, but also break new ground. It would cover more than 6 miles between substations on Groves and Shannon roads and span over Interstate 270.

The route would cross six streams, two acres of wetlands and near the habitats of several endangered or threatened species, crossing directly into territory occupied by the endangered little brown bat, according to the staff report. To mitigate encroachment on the bat’s habitat, AEP would adhere to seasonal tree-cutting dates to avoid trimming during the times of the year when the bats live in trees.

Other species of threatened or endangered bats, mussels and fish are in range of the project, but aren’t expected to be impacted.

The company plans to cross over the streams, limit construction within the wetlands and use specialized clearing techniques around the bodies of water.

The company plans to spend about $2.5 million to acquire and land rights for the project and to pay nearly $2 million in property tax annually for the route.

If approved, construction would being early in 2023, with plans to operate the new line in November 2024.

In an emailed statement, the company states the line will travel through Blacklick Estates, the City of Columbus, the Village of Brice, and Truro and Madison townships.

"The project is part of the overall Southeast Columbus Area Improvements Project, which aims to improve the reliability of the electric transmission grid in the area."

The company has additional information about the project at AEPOhio.com/SoutheastColumbus.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.