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EN12 - Description of significant impacts of activities, products, and services on biodiversity in protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas.

[This section describes the current impacts of facility operations on biodiversity.]

Impacts of Power Plant Construction
Construction of pollution control equipment and associated landfills has resulted in the loss of wetland and riparian areas near several power plant sites.  However, these losses have been permitted under the U.S Corps of Engineers’ 404 program and are mitigated by the company, often on a two-to-one, three-to-one, or higher basis.  Construction activity at the Amos, Cardinal and Mountaineer Plants has required such mitigations and future work at the Big Sandy, Flint Creek, Kyger Creek, Muskingum River and Oklaunion Plants will require similar mitigations to replace lost wetland and stream habitats. 

Hydroelectric Generation
AEP operates hydroelectric projects in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Of these, the Berrien Springs, Buchanan, Byllesby/Buck, Leesville, Niagara and Smith Mountain projects operate on waters considered to be of high biodiversity or ecological value (Table 4).  This is due to the presence of stocked salmonids, such as chinook salmon or steelhead trout, and federally endangered species, such as the Roanoke logperch.

Major impacts associated with hydroelectric project operation include alteration of stream and wetland areas by inundation, fluctuation of river flows and reservoir levels, blockage of upstream and downstream fish movement, and changing reservoir water quality.  The alteration of river and stream flow regimes as a result of dam operation can make otherwise suitable riverine habitat unfit for aquatic invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and other riparian-dependent species.  Fluctuating stream flows and water levels can also reduce the area suitable for fish spawning and can subject fish eggs to dehydration. 

The blockage of both upstream and downstream fish movement by dams, diversion structures, turbines, spillways, and waterways can affect fish populations.  Organisms passing over dam spillways or through hydroelectric turbines can be injured by strikes or impacts with solid objects, rapid pressure changes, abrasion with rough structures and the shearing effects of turbulent water.  In addition, fish that pass through trash racks and into turbines become susceptible to turbine-induced mortality.

Migrating fish may be prevented from moving upstream if their passage is blocked by the dams.  This could have a significant effect on anadramous fish populations, such as chinook salmon or steelhead trout, which are stocked by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in the St. Joseph River, upstream and downstream of the AEP Twin Branch hydroelectric facility.  Below this facility, AEP operates the Berrien Springs, and Buchanan hydroelectric projects, through which the anadromous fish must pass.  AEP also operates the Leesville, Niagara, and Smith Mountain hydroelectric projects on the Roanoke River, which contains the Roanoke Logperch, a federally endangered fish species.  The dams restrict the movements of these fish, potentially isolating the populations and preventing genetic mixing. 

Impacts of Wind Generation
Avian collision problems occurred at first-generation wind farms built during the 1970s.  Collisions of most concern were large raptors, especially golden eagles and smaller birds, while migrating in large flocks.  Since then, to avoid negative impacts, turbine design and wind farm siting have taken avian issues into consideration very early in the process. In recent years, bats have come to the wind industry’s attention and studies to grasp the dimensions of the issue continue. Because of deaths of endangered bats, some wind farms must curtail operations when bats are active.  AEP operates two wind facilities, Trent Mesa near Sweetwater, Texas, and Desert Sky near Iraan, Texas. To date, no bird or bat collisions have been documented at either facility.