Environmental regulations are often put in place to protect wildlife, plantlife, and surrounding habitats. What happens when these protections intersect with powerline construction projects? Keeping powerlines operational requires occasional access for maintenance and repairs. When the only right of way is through protected land, utility companies need viable solutions that provide safe access and minimize the environmental impact at the same time.
Common Environmental Challenges for Powerline Construction Projects
Accessing powerline construction projects can be challenging in any location. When environmental protections are in place, these challenges are often intensified.
Access Plan Development
The challenge: When the right of way is on protected land, an access plan is necessary for ensuring minimal impact. In many cases, the access plan may also need to be approved by regional or national regulators to ensure compliance with the environmental protections that are in place.
The solution: Assemble a qualified team to create an access plan. This might include environmental experts, site access providers, project managers, construction superintendents, and other key stakeholders. Ensure that all participants fully understand the environmental requirements and have the necessary expertise for generating solutions.
The challenge: Powerlines and access to them must be periodically cleared of vegetation to enable safe operation and emergency access. In protected areas, you may have to follow certain vegetation management protocols to ensure habitats are preserved.
The solution: Ensure that any crews entering the site understand the required protocols. This might require training on how to recognize specific habitats and the processes for handling them.
Erosion and Sediment
The challenge: Erosion from ground disturbances on right of ways can contribute to excess sediment in local waterways. This can be harmful to wildlife and can lead to long-term impact on habitats.
The solution: Work with a site access provider to develop a comprehensive plan for erosion and sediment control. This might include using a variety of environmental matting solutions, erosion control systems, and site restoration to minimize erosion after the project is complete.
The challenge: One measure used to protect wildlife habitats is preventing invasive species from encroaching. Invasive species can also be a biosecurity issue for surrounding farmland that abuts the right of way.
The solution: Invasive species can enter protected land through both equipment and people. One solution is to use track-out mats to remove debris from heavy equipment as it enters and exits the site. Crews may also need training on how to inspect their clothing and equipment for signs of invasive species and what to do if they are identified.
The challenge: Powerline construction projects are often accessed through challenging terrain. Whether crews need to cross streams, work around trees and other obstructions, or navigate mountainous areas, there is rarely an existing permanent road that provides easy access. When the land is protected, it adds another level of challenge because of the regulatory requirements that must be met.
The solution: Work with a site access provider that is knowledgeable about powerline construction projects to develop a strategy for safely traversing all of the various terrain types you will encounter. In addition to having experience, your provider should also have all of the necessary equipment and materials for handling versatile terrain.
The challenge: Power grids must be maintained year-round, and in emergency situations, utility companies can’t always wait for the weather to improve. Rain and snow can make site access even more challenging on protected land.
The solution: Although you can’t predict the weather, you can plan for likely scenarios. If the project will take place in winter, plan for slippery conditions and have the right equipment and access solutions in place. Preparation might include sourcing non-slip mats, winterizing equipment, and training crews on how to work safely in winter weather.
YAK ACCESS Solutions for Site Access on Protected Land
YAK ACCESS offers a versatile range of matting solutions for any type of terrain and site conditions. We also have the expertise to help you create a strategy for safe and cost-effective access to powerline construction projects. Whether you just need YAK MATS or choose to engage one of our full-service providers, our team is committed to helping you overcome any site access challenge.
Learn how KLEIN helped a utility company in Pennsylvania access power lines on protected land in our case study.