The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an agency within the Department of Agriculture (USDA), is authorized to make loans and loan guarantees that finance the construction of electric distribution, transmission, and generation facilities, including system improvements and replacements required to furnish and improve electric service in rural areas. Central Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. is an electric transmission cooperative that provides load-serving transmission service from the bulk transmission system to South Carolina’s 20 retail electric cooperatives. Berkeley Electric Cooperative, a member distribution electric cooperative owner of Central Electric, owns and operates more than 5,000 miles of distribution line serving more than 80,000 accounts in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties.
Central Electric proposes to construct and own a new load-serving, 115 kV transmission line to energize a proposed substation in the McClellanville area of Charleston County, South Carolina. Approximately 1,100 Berkeley Electric owner-customers that would benefit from the proposed Project; this includes customers located in the areas near Rutledge Road, South Santee Road, Wedge Plantation, Germantown, Toby Road, Dupree Road, Lincoln High School, Randall Road, Tibwin Road, St. James-Santee School, Shellmore, Buck Hall, Town of Awendaw, Doar Road, and areas adjacent to U.S. Highway 17 in northern Charleston County. RUS has issued an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considers three transmission line alternatives, encompassing three potential corridor locations with one corridor including two different alignments. The corridors range in length from 16 to 31 miles and encompass parts of Berkeley, Georgetown and Charleston counties in South Carolina. The corridor locations propose to cross both public and private lands, including the Francis Marion National Forest, Santee Coastal Reserve, and other private and public lands used for conservation management purposes; all corridors are located entirely within the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
Central Electric plans to request financial assistance from RUS for the proposed project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are participating as cooperating agencies and may issue separate Records of Decision relevant to the Project under separate authorities. For the USFWS, a draft Record of Decision would be subject to the Agency’s administrative review process at 36 CFR Part 218, subparts A and B. The USFS may need to issue a special use permit to authorize occupancy of National Forest System lands for this proposal. Per 40 CFR 1506.3, the USFS intends to review and adopt the Final EIS, if found sufficient, in support of issuance of a special use permit.