May 21, 2013

Refuge seeks public comment on CHEC
proposal to move transmission lines

By IRENE NOLAN 



The draft compatibility determination for the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative’s request to relocate transmission lines at two sites in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has been made available for public review and comment.

Refuge manager Mike Bryant found that the CHEC request to amend its right-of-way for the relocation was compatible with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission and goals at the refuge – with some stipulations.

The public comment period is open until Monday, June 3.

According to the draft compatibility determination, CHEC’s right-of-way permit has been amended on five occasions since it was issued in 1966. 

The non-profit utility provides electric service to Hatteras Island, including facilities owned and operated by Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The request involves the relocation of utility poles in two locations within the refuge because of storm-induced accelerated beach erosion.

On August 27, 2011, Hurricane Irene caused significant damage to NC Highway 12, creating a new inlet and destroying parts of NC-12 and CHEC’s 115 kV electric transmission system.  Permission to proceed with the emergency measures to repair and replace the line was obtained with the understanding that the easement modification would be applied for at a later time. 

In response to damage to Highway 12, the North Carolina Department of Transportation spanned the inlet with temporary bridging and began to formulate plans for a replacement bridge.  CHEC has worked closely with NCDOT in the planning of the new bridge and this easement modification request is intended to provide NCDOT adequate clearance for construction.

In late 2012, Hurricane Sandy and subsequent northeasters severely eroded the beach, dunes, and Highway 12 just north of Mirlo Beach in an area known as the S-curves.  The eroded and damaged features protected CHEC’s 115 kV transmission line that provides electric service to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.  Emergency measures were taken immediately following the storms to protect several structures vulnerable to ocean tides and overwash.  To ensure reliability for island residents, an easement modification is necessary to relocate the transmission line further west.

CHEC is preparing an environmental report, as required by the Rural Utilities Service.  This report has been commissioned and will be completed prior to construction. 

The draft compatibility determination includes several stipulations to ensure that the refuge purpose and mission can be achieved with the proposed utility ROW modifications.  Those stipulations include:

  • Abandoned utility easement areas shall be restored to a condition as good as or better than before the relocation and CHEC shall relinquish all claims to the abandoned easement areas.
  • CHEC shall ensure full compliance with all terms and conditions within or attached to Right-of-Way Permit ES-0852 and all modifications or amendments thereof.
  • Monitoring and control of exotic and invasive species is required.  The use of herbicides and pesticides is prohibited without prior approval by the regional director.  Notice shall be provided to the Refuge so as to allow sufficient time for coordination and necessary approvals before applying any herbicide, pesticide, or any other chemical control agent.
  • The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the conservation and protection of migratory birds from harm or harassment within the Refuge and the Presidential Proclamation Boundary.  This Proclamation established certain lands and waters within and adjacent to, and in the vicinity of the refuge as a closed area.  In the event that construction is initiated during the wildlife nesting season, surveys will be done to assess nesting activity.  If nests are found, they will be clearly marked and construction/maintenance activities shall be modified as directed by the refuge manager or designee to protect wildlife nesting activities.
  • Fifteen terms and conditions are specified in 50 CFR 29.21-4.  By reference, these terms and conditions are hereby considered to be a part of this compatibility determination and will be included (or minor variations thereof) in the right-of-way permit.
  • Prior to beginning construction, CHEC shall provide proof that all other required Federal and State permits were acquired.

“The proposed changes in utility ROW and relocation of utility lines will result in minimal and mostly short-term impacts on refuge biological resources,” the draft compatibility determination states. “Similarly, the change in ROW will neither materially interfere with nor detract from the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System or the purpose for which the Refuge was established.”
 
Federal wildlife refuges are required by law to determine the compatibility of any proposed non-wildlife dependent use with the mission of the national wildlife refuge system and the purpose for which a particular refuge was established.

“The mission of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is to protect migratory birds and other native wildlife and their breeding grounds and habitat for the benefit of the American people,” stated Bryant. He added, “We want the community to be informed about the work being proposed and to have an opportunity to weigh in on the pros and cons of that work.”
 
If you wish to review the Draft Compatibility Determination, copies are available at the National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center at 100 Conservation Way in Manteo and at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, and at Dare County public libraries.

Written comments may be sent to: Refuge Manager, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 1969, Manteo, NC 27954 or e-mailed to [email protected].

You can also click here to read the compatibility determination.
 
All comments must be submitted no later than close of business at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 3.

If you need additional information, please contact Refuge Biologist Dennis Stewart at 252-473-1131, ext. 231.




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