GEI completed ecological and land-use surveys of an approximately 20.8-mile-long transmission line corridor, laydown yards, and the surrounding landscape beyond the right-of-way.
All wetland areas within the project area were cataloged as instructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Wetland Delineation Manual. Field-surveyed wetlands were also typically supported with initial research of the project area with mapped hydric soils by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Web Soil Survey and mapped wetlands by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Wisconsin Wetland Inventory. Any land-use type, such as wetlands, uplands, agriculture, and urban lands occurring within the project area were categorized (i.e.commercial vs. residential) and mapped to measure total acreage. The project area wetlands, grasslands, and upland forests were also documented based on the WDNR Natural Heritage Inventory classification system. Any residential structure within 300-feet and any cell tower within a mile of the project centerline were also recorded. All data collected for the project was completed in accordance to the CA filing requirements with the PSCW. The field data collected in conjunction with desktop reviews of available data were utilized to draft the environmental sections of the CA application that was submitted to the PSCW for approval.
Permitting support for the project included drafting and submitting state and federal permits in addition to identifying local (county and municipality) permit requirements. Local permits were not needed due to exemptions from the PSCW, although the permits that would have otherwise been needed were identified by GEI for inclusion in the CA application. GEI did prepare a wetland permit package that was submitted to the WDNR as part of the CA application and a separate USACE wetland permit. A WDNR construction site stormwater and erosion control permit will be drafted as the project has been approved by the PSCW and has entered the construction phase.
GEI reviewed sensitive and endangered resources present within one mile of the corridor for terrestrial and wetland species and two miles for aquatic species due to State of Wisconsin regulations and CA filing requirements. GEI staff members that are certified to conduct WDNR Endangered Resource Reviews (ERR) conducted a screening of the project. The ERR for this project revealed the possible presence of state-threatened Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) and Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta). GEI investigated habitat based on collected field data and remotely, the non-site conducted surveys in appropriate habitat to aid in project planning. GEI is pre-approved by WDNR to conduct Red-shouldered Hawk surveys for any project. GEI located an occupied Red-shouldered Hawk nest, resulting in the establishment of a buffer area for future project work. Due to these efforts, the client can plan project work accordingly to make construction as efficient as possible, adhere to state regulations, and avoid impacts to this species. GEI is also planning Wood Turtle exclusion fencing in multiple locations along the corridor to adhere to regulations that are in place due to several element occurrences. Work is now allowed anywhere outside of this buffer, a much less restrictive area than if a nest were not found and all suitable habitat was required to be avoided. GEI is working with the client and the construction contractor to plan exclusion fencing and construction timing in a cost-effective manner that will protect the species while allowing construction to occur. Having threatened and endangered species experts on staff that have good relationships with WDNR and United States Fish and Wildlife Service allows the client to plan avoidance measures for required species and to be confident that any unexpected issues can be mitigated appropriately.
GEI oversaw the lead contamination and remediation planning for the project that has occurred to date during the pre-certification phase of the project. The transmission line towers are lattice towers from the early 1900s that have been painted with lead-based paint. Limited lead paint and soil assessments were completed during the pre-certification phase of the project, as full spending and assessments needed to wait until the construction phase. Efforts to support investigations for presence of lead in soil and groundwater began by testing structures for presence of lead paint using lead swabs and collecting paint chips to analyze concentration for construction work health and safety. Following testing for a source of lead, GEI staff collected soil and groundwater samples at select locations. GEI collected soil samples to test for lead contamination in the soil at the structure locations, collected soil samples to test for lead at background locations when structures occur on or near residential properties, and collected and tested groundwater samples if groundwater was observed within 4 feet of the soil surface, and if the surface composite soil sample exceeded the state listed groundwater pathway.
Soil samples were taken in the upper 2 inches at each structure to form a surface composite sample. If the surface composite sample exceeded values as outlined in the Painted Structure Potential Lead Soil Contamination Procedure and the Lead Soil Management Flow Chart, then additional samples were taken at 6-inch intervals below the ground surface until a depth where soil management would no longer be needed. Nearly 200 structures and the soils associated with those structures will be tested and managed for lead at completion of the project.