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SMECO, Dominion address concerns


Staff writer

Solomons residents raised concerns regarding two new projects coming through their area during Monday night’s Solomons Civic Association meeting.

Officials from local utility companies attended the meeting to address what effects the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas exportation project and new Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative distribution line project will have on Calvert’s southern-most community.

Dominion addresses concerns about exporting LNG

Several Dominion officials discussed the proposed liquefied natural gas exportation project and answered any questions Solomons residents had about it Monday. The concerns raised dealt with the off-site location Dominion acquired in Solomons for unloading large equipment, the noise, increased automobile and ship traffic and ballast water.

Mark Reaser, the director of LNG operations, and Michael Gardner, the manager of LNG operations, explained that currently, the Lusby facility is import-only and the proposed project will permit the LNG to be either imported or exported.

The proposed construction to accommodate the exportation of LNG will remain within Dominion’s 131-acre, fenced-in area in Lusby. There also are two off-site locations: one across from Cove Point Road and one near the Calvert Marine Museum on private property.

Solomons resident Peter Ide said that although the construction may remain behind the security fence, “construction activities will involve a severe disruption outside the fence line, is that correct?”

“I will disagree with you, but we will have more traffic coming down Cove Point … to the site during the construction phase,” Gardner responded.

Ide said he was under the impression the Solomons site near the museum and below the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge will be a staging location and will disrupt the aesthetics and traffic of the town, but Gardner clarified that the site in Solomons is solely an unloading and loading area for large equipment coming off ships for the construction.

“It’s not a staging site,” Gardner said. Any large equipment coming by ship will be unloaded at the site and then, during the night, will be transported to the Lusby facility, he explained.

Chris McNelis, a Solomons resident who also does real estate in the area, asked if the project, once completed, will create a lot of noise.

Gardner explained that most of the existing noise, and proposed noise, comes from the turbines on the property. As part of the project’s approval, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will set a decibel level limit to which Dominion will have to adhere.

To accommodate for the noise, Gardner said there will be sound-proofing on the equipment and buildings, as well as a 60-foot sound wall that will “help deaden the sound.”

Resident Gladys Bowers asked how the ships coming up the Chesapeake Bay to Dominion’s pier in Lusby will be handling their ballast water and what objects may be in a ship’s ballast.

Ballast water is the water a ship will take on when it is not carrying cargo, to remain stable and operate more efficiently and safely in the water. The ballast water carries non-native species from where the water was picked up that pose economic, ecological and public health risks.

Gardner assured her the ships will be required to follow Coast Guard regulations concerning ballast water. These regulations require a ship to conduct an ocean exchange, meaning once it leaves a coast, it will release the coastal water it picked up into the ocean and acquire ocean water. Just prior to entering the bay, the ship will acquire new ocean water.

As for ship traffic, Gardner said ships will be traveling up the bay to Dominion’s pier every five to six days. Dominion is proposed to be permitted for up to about 90 ships each year, but, Gardner said, Dominion is expecting closer to about 70 to 75 ships.

Construction of the $3.4 to $3.8 billion project is expected to begin in early 2014 (if FERC approves the project), with export services beginning in 2017.

SMECO to place distribution lines underground

As part of a community enhancement and reliability project, SMECO will soon begin placing its overhead distribution lines along Solomons Island Road underground. The estimated three-year project is proposed in three phases, with the first phase expected to begin next month.

During phase 1, the distribution line along Solomons Island Road beginning at Lore Road (just north of the Calvert Marine Museum) to Alexander Street will be placed underground. At the meeting, Ken Capps, SMECO’s senior vice president of engineering and operations, said this phase is estimated to cost about $350,000.

Phase 1 is proposed to start next month and be completed in time for the tourist season in about March or April. According to SMECO’s presentation Monday night, the conceptual timeline of the entire three-year project is to avoid the primary tourism season and focus the work during the fall and winter months.

In phase 2, the distribution lines will run from Alexander Street near Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, across the little bridge on the island to the split at Charles and Patuxent streets. The rest of the distribution line from Charles Street to the end of the island will be completed during the third phase.

Capps said the lines along the “feeder road” (Solomons Island Road) will be the lines placed underground, but will not be all the distribution lines on the island. Any lines to residences and businesses along the road will be placed underground.

SMECO spokesman Tom Dennison said at the meeting the company is coordinating with Calvert County’s Division of Public Works so the lines are underground before the county begins its sidewalk and streetscaping project.

Since the existing poles and their attached light fixtures will be removed, SMECO will be installing new light poles along the distribution line, according to the presentation.

The plan and design for the light poles has not been finalized, Capps said, adding the light plan and designs will be brought to the residents for input.

Calvert Marine Museum Director Doug Alves said he would like SMECO to consider poles that will continue to allow the community to hang its decorations during various holidays and seasons.

Capps said he isn’t sure if the chosen poles will be able to accommodate that, but SMECO would be willing to work something out.

To remove the existing overhead distribution lines and poles, Dennison said the company needed cooperation from the electric, phone and cable companies that use the poles. He said SMECO recently received a letter from those companies stating they are cooperating. Those lines will also be placed underground.

For easy access to the cables, two electric distribution boxes will be installed, though their location hasn’t been determined, according to the presentation.

On Tuesday morning, Dennison said this project is “separate and distinct” from the Southern Maryland Reliability Project, which includes upgrading SMECO’s 69-kilovolt transmission lines in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties to 230-kilovolt transmission lines for more reliable power. The reliability project is moving as planned and the foundations for the 13 new 150-foot galvanized transmission line poles in Solomons are expected to be laid later this month and into early November.