Conservation and Stewardship
AEP values and practices environmental stewardship and conservation across its service territory. Whether through reclaiming outdoor recreation areas, such as nature trails and campsites, to integrating conservation measures into new and rebuilt transmission lines, AEP takes steps to preserve our natural ecosystem, especially as we grow our business.
Through AEP’s ReCreation Land program, Ohio land that was once surface-mined for coal has been ecologically reclaimed as outdoor recreation area for the public to enjoy. Throughout the history of this program, AEP has planted over 63 million trees, created 380 campsites, and established 350 lakes and ponds stocked for fishing for an estimated 100,000 visitors each year. As of February 2017, 58,800 acres have been reclaimed in Ohio through AEP’s efforts.
Retired AEP employee shows improvements to the original wildlife viewing pavilion near SWEPCO Lake at the end of Eagle Watch Trail. The one-half mile path takes visitors through forests and meadows.
For many decades AEP has had a cooperative agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, allowing citizens to use the ReCreation land for public use. With the electric market deregulation in Ohio and the reduction of coal mining in this area, AEP no longer has a future business need for this land. In 2017, we entered into an agreement with the state of Ohio that allows the state to begin purchasing some of the land so that the public can continue to enjoy this area for generations to come. Initially, the state is purchasing more than 13,000 acres to create a new state park that will be known as the Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area.
Southwestern Electric Power Company’s (SWEPCO) Flint Creek Power Plant in northwest Arkansas has been the home to the Eagle Watch Nature Trail for almost 20 years. The year-round warm water in the coal-fueled power plant’s reservoir, SWEPCO Lake, attracts wintering American bald eagles. A new wildlife viewing pavilion serves as a “blind” for photographers, bird watchers and others to enjoy part of the lake frequented by eagles and many other birds and wildlife. The trail was built in 1999 as a stewardship effort of the power company. It has received national awards, including citations from the Wildlife Habitat Council and Corporate Lands for Learning. The trail has been named a “pollinator friendly site” by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
AEP employees at the Conesville Plant in Coshocton, Ohio, host an Earth Day event where approximately 800 local fifth and sixth graders got hands-on lessons on nature, wildlife and the environment.
Each year, employees at the Conesville Plant in Coshocton, Ohio, host an Earth Day event. In 2017, approximately 800 local fifth and sixth graders got hands-on lessons on nature, wildlife, the environment and a variety of other science fields. The students had more than 20 stations to visit during the day, including one on the fish of Ohio, which was provided by Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water employees. AEP employees also helped teach students about what they do at the plant and what can happen if you aren’t careful around power lines. It’s another way we are reaching out to our communities about electrical safety in the public.
Some conservation measures are required as part of our infrastructure projects, which may include wetland or stream mitigation as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. Similarly, the establishment of conservation easements for habitat protection may be required by the Corps or a state permitting authority. AEP’s voluntary activities 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.
Another 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. In this case, AEP proposed a pilot project to test the feasibility of substituting the prescribed mix with a mix that would be of benefit to pollinators. 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.
A final example is the voluntary improvement of abandoned mine lands in the vicinity of the Conesville Plant in Coshocton County, Ohio. These old surface mines, whose former operators are long gone, pre-date today’s mandatory reclamation standards. The goal of the reclamation is to eliminate hazardous highwalls, abate acid mine drainage, restore the subject landscape to its approximate original contours, and reforest the reclaimed areas with vegetation native to the region. The project is a partnership between AEP, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio State University and the Ohio Coal Development Office.