Baltimore Gas & Electric Company BGE Rights-of-Way Environmental Stewardship Program
Project #: 100678 – Updated: March 22, 2012
Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) currently manages a total of 550 miles of electric transmission rights-of-way (ROWs) in Maryland. Two particular sites within BGE's ROW management are the Columbia site and the South River site. The Columbia site is a suburban ROW in Howard County, Maryland, halfway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The site consists of rolling hills dropping into wetlands with small streams and about half of the area surrounded by forest. Approximately 16 acres of grassland prairie, two acres of shrub-scrub riparian areas, and seven acres in the wetland areas are activ...view full description
Location (by county):
MD District 07
Bird Conservation Regions:
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Full Project Description
Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) currently manages a total of 550 miles of electric transmission rights-of-way (ROWs) in Maryland. Two particular sites within BGE's ROW management are the Columbia site and the South River site. The Columbia site is a suburban ROW in Howard County, Maryland, halfway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The site consists of rolling hills dropping into wetlands with small streams and about half of the area surrounded by forest. Approximately 16 acres of grassland prairie, two acres of shrub-scrub riparian areas, and seven acres in the wetland areas are actively managed. Hawks, owls, songbirds, deer, fox, rabbit and butterfly-moth-bee pollinators are commonly seen feeding on the ROW. The South River site, approximately ten minutes from Annapolis, Maryland, is a rural ROW that has the general appearance of the piedmont area beneath the mountains, even though it is within the coastal plain of the Chesapeake Bay. The area presently managed includes a mixture of upland prairie with grass and forbs (13 acres of which are actively managed) shrub-scrub habitat within a ravine (12 acres of which are actively managed) and along the ROW forest borders, as well as some patches of shrub habitat scattered within the prairie. A bald eagle, hawks, orioles, indigo bunting, and the prairie warbler have been seen in the area; as well as deer, fox, rabbit and other mammals and multiple butterfly-moth-bee pollinators.
The main objective and prescriptions for both sites include using Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) techniques in order to control the tall growing, incompatible trees in the areas to allow more space for low growing grass, forbs and shrubs. Research has shown that a managed ROW can provide much-needed early successional habitat that benefit a wide variety of birds, pollinators and other wildlife. By removing invasive species and allowing natural competition between species to take place, the wildlife team is hoping to encourage native habitats that will both benefit wildlife and prevent hazardous electrical situations on the ROWs.
A pilot area of the Columbia site was tested in October, 2009, with various vegetation management techniques in order to determine which methods would work best given the vegetation outline and topography. Treated areas included those dominated by such species as autumn olive, tree-of-heaven, multiflora rose, and Japanese honeysuckle. The entire ROW pilot area that was originally treated in 2009 had an efficacy rate on target plants of 95%, and received a follow-up selective treatment in October 2010. An area near Lake Elkhorn and along nature trails had a severe infestation of invasive mile-a-minute weed and received a pre-emergent herbicide treatment in March 2010 to suppress germination. In the spring of 2009, four botanical studies conducted by the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage were begun and include one wetland study, one brush and two grassland studies. The purpose of these studies is to establish baseline data of the plant species and density due to the regimen of mowing and hand cutting vegetation, and then to document over the next two years the changes in plant species and density due to the introduction of herbicide treatments with an integrated vegetation management approach. This data will help guide future vegetation management practices on similar suburban ROWs and can help educate other utilities, government agencies and conservation organizations in the best vegetation management practices. A nature trail at the Columbia site is also enhanced through the use of interpretive signage to explain the IVM practices and results, as well as some common species that may be seen along the trail.
The South River site is particularly important as it provides watershed protection for the South River and the Chesapeake Bay. In May 2009, a preliminary review of the site was produced to determine what the conditions were and what the realistic results would be of vegetation management. In 2007 and 2008 all tall growing trees on steep slopes and in wetlands that previously had been allowed to grow were removed by BGE. Similar to what was found at the Columbia site the routine mowing of accessible upland areas was tolerated and expected in South River. However, this routine cutting was encouraging the establishment of many non-native invasive plants. The IVM methodology for vegetation management focuses on optimizing habitat for song birds and pollinators on the site. Standing dead trees and snags left after the initial removal are left on-site in order to provide habitat for various species as well as decrease the likelihood of erosion. In 2010, the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory provided the team with instructions on how to conduct a bee survey to determine the species that may be present on-site. The patchwork of vegetation provided by a mixture of prairie and shrubs would also be optimal for food and cover resources for various birds. IVM Partners held a workshop in September 2009, with the EPA and USFWS both expressing support for more professional training and understanding of the various management techniques. Some of these techniques now used on-site include creating maps for management crews indicating locations where specific management techniques will be used, using low volume broadcast herbicide under much of the wire zone (area directly under the wires) to control woody vegetation, allowing shrub thickets to colonize certain steep slopes and wetlands within the wire zone, allowing a linear shrub thicket to grow in the border zone (area between wire zone and forest edge), and removing trees with a targeted use of herbicides.
Through the BGE Rights-of-Way Environmental Stewardship Program (Corporate Lands for Learning (CLL) program certified in 2011), electric transmission right-of-way habitat sites are used as outdoor classrooms where professional land managers learn how to manage native habitat in rights-of-way. Annual workshops allow representatives of utility companies, public agencies and conservation organizations to learn from the experience of the Constellation Energy pilot projects. Features of these workshops include comparison of treated and non-treated areas, classroom instruction, field tours, and demonstrations of management methods and best practice procedures. Past workshops also facilitated participants' professional development by offering continuing education units through the International Society of Arboriculture and herbicide applicator training credits through the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Another focus of the CLL program is to teach local residents about the benefits of using integrated vegetation management in rights-of-way. Magazine articles, homeowner information sheets and presentations at community meetings inform the public about why Constellation Energy chose this method and how it benefits local communities and wildlife.
Is the success of this project's actions being monitored? No/Unknown