Conservation and Stewardship
We continue to seek opportunities to integrate conservation measures into our management approach to rights-of-way (ROW) for new and rebuilt transmission lines. This involves addressing key ecological concerns while maintaining reliable transmission service. Working with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), we developed a range of conservation options for ROW land management. This “toolkit” gives AEP options to incorporate environmentally beneficial conservation practices into our ROW management efforts that are economical and protect reliability as we rebuild old lines and construct new ones.
Flint Creek Power Plant received a 2015 Pollinator Advocate Award from the Wildlife Habitat Council for their efforts towards pollinator conservation.
AEP has a long history of partnering with the WHC on a variety of projects, primarily involving our power plants. Southwestern Electric Power Company’s Flint Creek Power Plant received a 2015 Pollinator Advocate Award from the WHC. Pollinators include bees, birds, bats and other insects and animals that spread pollen so that plant fertilization can occur. Flint Creek employees support annual Earth Day events during which 4-H Clubs and other community members plant host and nectar plants for pollinators. A local Boy Scout troop also installed birdhouses for wood ducks, bluebirds and flycatchers. Flint Creek has held certification under the Corporate Lands for Learning program since 2004 and under WHC’s Wildlife at Work program since 2002. The two programs are being combined into WHC’s new Conservation Certification, and Flint Creek will be certified from 2016 through 2018.
In an effort to enhance how we track AEP’s environmental stewardship work, we developed a web-based tool to collect information about all of the important environmental work done by AEP’s Generation and Transmission organizations. Activities we are tracking include the protection of high biodiversity areas, which include areas that are recognized for important features or are a priority for conservation, such as wilderness protection areas, national and state parks, and species management areas, or for endangered species protection. We also track whether our actions were mandated by regulation or were voluntary.
Required projects include wetland or stream mitigations as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requirement, endangered species protection during dredging or transmission siting, or the establishment of conservation easements for habitat protection. Voluntary activities are those that go above and beyond what is required to meet regulatory standards and include donations to wildlife organizations or school groups or other charitable contributions, which could include funding, services or in-kind commitments made by employee volunteers in support of conservation work.
One example of a voluntary environmental project is work related to the restoration of an AEP 138-kV transmission line through a portion of the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Area, which is managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Normally, the agency would prescribe a seed mix to be used in restoring any damaged vegetation; however, in this case, AEP proposed a pilot project to test the feasibility of substituting the prescribed mix with a pollinator mix. The pollinator mix was developed in collaboration with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative, ODNR and Pheasants Forever. This seed mix includes native species that are compatible with existing vegetation in the area and will improve the habitat by providing tall grasses as well as pollinator attracting flowers. The development of the pollinator plots will be an improvement over the existing vegetation and will provide a greater diversity of plants when compared to the recommended ODNR vegetation.