In addition to our avian protection program, we continue to implement new design standards that include animal guards on exposed equipment and other deterrents to reduce the incidence of animals coming near equipment.
To find ways to avoid impacts on wildlife or habitat, and where we cannot to look for ways to minimize or mitigate them.
How We Performed:
We continued to perform extensive biological monitoring around our facilities and to implement our avian protection standards at our wind sites and as we construct our distribution lines. We added aluminum platforms in the Outer Banks of North Carolina to protect birds and, along with our partners, committed to a pollinator program along the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For the eighth consecutive year, we were recognized as a Tree Line USA utility by the Arbor Day Foundation.
|We will continue to implement new design standards that include increased spacing on distribution lines for avian protection, animal guards on exposed equipment, and other deterrents to animals coming near equipment.||We continue to implement these design standards and audit our jobs to ensure we are doing so.|
Where We’re Headed:
We will continue our strategy to work to understand the potential for our operations or construction to affect habitat or wildlife and identify opportunities to avoid those potential effects or find ways to reduce or mitigate them.
We plan to continue to implement new design standards that include increased spacing on distribution lines for avian protection, animal guards on exposed equipment, and other deterrents to animals coming near equipment.
We commit to establish over 500 acres of pollinator habitat by 2020 and to pilot habitat plots on solar farm sites.
To protect birds near our gas produced water evaporation ponds, we use netting or bird deterrents and expect to continue to implement these systems as new facilities are constructed in 2019.
The best way to minimize impacts is to prevent them. To build on our existing avian protection program created decades ago, three years ago we began a multi-year project to protect large birds such as bald eagles, ospreys, owls and vultures. When birds with large wingspans make contact with multiple wires, they can create a path for electricity and get hurt. Most injuries and deaths occur when the birds actually land on power poles or collide with power lines. Our program creates avian protection zones along major rivers where the birds live, such as the Potomac, James, York and Rappahannock.
For all new construction or upgrades in these zones, the company increases the space between electric lines on power poles from 44 inches to as much as 60 inches, to give the birds more room to fly. When it’s not possible to spread the lines, the company installs perch guards to discourage the birds from landing. The program protects the large birds (and reduces power outages for customers). All new construction outside of the protection zone is built with improved avian protections.
Dominion Energy is one of the first companies in the country to use new aluminum-alloy nesting platforms — instead of wooden ones — to provide ospreys with an alternative to nesting on transmission towers. The aluminum platforms are sturdier, larger and will last much longer than the wooden platforms, which are prone to be destroyed by high winds and storms.
In 2017 the company installed 12 new aluminum platforms alongside the Wright Memorial Bridge over Currituck Sound in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Keeping the birds off the transmission towers protects them from harm and reduces power outages for the company’s customers.
Dominion Energy has a close partnership with the Center for Conservation Biology to enhance bird habitat in our operating areas. We have installed a dozen American kestrel nest boxes in the Richmond metro area, two peregrine falcon nesting platforms at our Possum Point and Yorktown power stations, as well as more than 50 wood duck nest boxes near the Staunton and Scuppernong rivers. We are in the planning stages for an eagle nesting platform.
To avoid potential harm or injury to birds and other wildlife, Wexpro has installed bird cones on all production equipment vents and added netting over any containment that could potentially hold fluids. To keep birds away from produced water evaporation facilities, Wexpro uses either netting or a Bird Avert System that detects approaching birds and activates mechanical falcons, high-intensity strobe lights, and loudspeakers to deter the birds from approaching further.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline
On infrastructure projects such as pipelines or powerlines, we work to avoid sensitive wildlife and natural habitat where we can, and we try to mitigate our effects upon them where we cannot. The Altantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is a good example.
The ACP team has consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the North Carolina Wildlife Commission and other stakeholders.
ACP made more than 300 changes to the pipeline routes to avoid effects on natural resources, threatened and endangered species, and state-protected species, and to accommodate landowner requests. Where impacts were unavoidable, ACP developed mitigation plans, including species-specific mitigation. In addition, ACP is mitigating the loss of forest habitat in each of the three states by providing funds to the states with which to acquire significant acres of forest land.
ACP also has developed plans approved by state and federal agencies for the protection of aquatic life, including plans to move fish and mussels from stream and river crossing areas during construction. Other requirements include time-of-year restrictions and, in some cases, the crossing methods were changed to provide additional protections. We relocated federally endangered Clubshell mussels and we are funding propagation efforts in West Virginia. We are funding Yellow Lance mussel propagation efforts in North Carolina. Our efforts to keep soils from construction out of waterways are further examples of how we work to protect the fish and other life that depend upon clean water.
To protect wildlife and rare plants that occur along the ACP route, we are conducting monitoring and relocation of protected species. We are conducting acoustic monitoring at bat caves in Virginia to ensure we are adequately protecting federally protected bats. We installed monitoring equipment to evaluate shade and soil moisture to protect federally threatened small whorled pogonia plants. We are also working with the Smithsonian Institute to ensure long-term monitoring of small whorled pogonia plants. We relocated ginseng in the George Washington National Forest where it would have been impacted by construction. We also relocated red spruce trees within Northern flying squirrel areas in West Virginia to ensure that the squirrel habitat is not diminished. We preserved 500 acres of land in West Virginia to protect running buffalo clover and federally protected bats.
For many years, Wexpro’s drilling program has been based on multi-well pads, which use directional drilling and allow for multiple wells to be drilled from one location. The result is that the surface disturbance for multiple wells is no greater than that for a single well. This not only conserves habitat, it also has substantially reduced associated day-to-day operations: trucking, production equipment, gathering lines, and more.
Protecting Pollinators and Rare Plants
We manage our electric rights-of-way to increase habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators in Virginia and North Carolina — we call it Wings at Work. The company has created more than 43,000 acres of habitat by using selective herbicides that affect only trees and woody brush. Reducing the tree canopy and the shade it creates has enabled flowers, milkweeds and other plants important to pollinators to thrive. In addition, rights-of-way in Virginia are home to rare plants that also like the open canopy. These areas are managed differently to ensure that the plants are protected. The company also has pledged to create more more than 500 acres of additional habitat across the company by the end of 2020. This includes 60 acres of additional pollinator habitat at its power stations and pilot plots for habitat at solar farm sites. With our ACP project partners, we also will restore at least 450 acres of right-of-way with pollinator habitat, native grasses and wildflowers.
In 2017 Dominion Energy along with our ACP partners announced a new initiative along the pipeline route to establish new habitats for butterflies, bees and other pollinator insects. The project identified 450 acres along roughly 50 miles of the route. It developed dozens of native seed mixes, including native grasses such as Little Bluestem and Beaked Panicum, and wildflowers such as Partridge Pea and Black-Eyed Susan. The program is voluntary and relies on the approval and input of participating landowners.
Oysters, Bats and More
In 2017 — in cooperation with the Calvert County Oyster Committee and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources — we enhanced the Back-of-the-Island natural oyster bar located south of the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge in the Patuxent River near Solomons Island, Maryland. This involved placing bedding material consisting of clean, aged oyster shell (cultch) and then covering it with a layer of spat-on-shell that was seeded at the Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory or the Piney Point Aquaculture Center. The oyster larvae were obtained from the Maryland Horn Point State Hatchery. Local vendors from Maryland and Virginia were used to procure the cultch and it was aged in southern Maryland. A total of four acres of oyster habitat was enhanced for use in continued harvesting operations. Prior to 2017, we supported efforts to expand artificial reefs and provide additional habitat for fish in the area by recycling concrete at two reef sites in the Chesapeake Bay.
We are also working to protect a freshwater marsh along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay near our Cove Point facility. In 2017, we partnered with local groups to plant 6,000 plants to reestablish beach grasses to protect this important resource.
Employees at Warren County Power Station noticed that bats were being drawn into the large fans that are part of the station’s air-cooled condenser. To protect the bats, the company installed netting beneath the fans where this has been an issue and has since included this in the design of similar equipment — for instance, at the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in southwest Virginia.
We also have worked with our partners and resource agencies to protect bats around the Fowler Ridge wind farm in Indiana and the NedPower wind farm in West Virginia. During the time that bats are emerging from their caves, the angle of the fan blades is changed to prevent rotation at low wind speeds. The speed at which the blades begin to generate power is raised at the same time to avoid wind conditions in which the bats are more likely to be looking for food. These changes reduce the likelihood that they will be injured by the turbine blades.
After it received its new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2005, Roanoke Rapids Power Station in North Carolina has been using eel ladders to capture and count American eels. The eels are transported above the dam so they can reoccupy historic habitat. In 2017, nearly 54,000 eels were moved upstream.