Bridging the Gap between Line Workers and Environmental Regulations
El Paso Electric (EPE) is a regional utility serving 420,000 customers in west Texas and southern New Mexico. EPE maintains over 100 permits and rights-of-way on federal and state lands for both transmission and distribution lines. Work crews have many challenges managing their work locations in relation to environmentally sensitive areas. A Collector for ArcGIS application now provides all the timely and relevant information needed to follow the law and protect the environment while focusing on efficient line work.
EPE operates 1,800 miles of power lines that traverse many sensitive-environment resources. Across the country, various federal and regional environmental agencies protect cultural resources, scenic trails, and critical wildlife habitats that are intersected by power line routes and access roads. In recent years, regulatory requirements have increased substantially, making it even more challenging to work around these important resources.
Many of the environmentally sensitive areas, such as wolf dens, cannot be physically marked for fear of public interference. Crews found it very challenging to efficiently identify the sensitive areas as well as determine the proper procedures to follow, particularly when using paper maps and hiking the terrain. EPE line workers are experts on high-voltage electrical work but not on animal habitats and cultural resources. Environmental concerns frequently delayed routine maintenance activities. The utility needed a better way to ensure that crews maintained environmental compliance while performing their work.
Industry - Electric & Gas
El Paso Electric (EPE)
EPE operates 1,800 miles of power lines that traverse many sensitive-environment resources. Environmental concerns frequently delayed routine maintenance activities. The utility needed a better way to ensure that crews maintained environmental compliance while performing their work.
EPE worked with Westland Resources Inc. to create a Collector for ArcGIS App to help identify sensitize environmental zones.
EPE uses the app to improve regulatory compliance and increase productivity of the utility's workforce.
EPE engaged WestLand Resources Inc. to help optimize the utility’s environmental data and to deploy Collector for ArcGIS to address this need. WestLand is an environmental services and engineering firm with a strong GIS support team. WestLand developed a proof of concept in less than a month, utilizing EPE's ArcGIS Online resources to manage the data for this use.
It was important to deploy the app quickly and without customization so that it would be straightforward to maintain. After approval, WestLand prepared the data and delivered a prototype for end-user evaluation in just four months. WestLand identified the areas depicting archaeological sites, wildlife habitats, and other environmentally sensitive zones as bounding boxes to simplify the map and provide a margin of safety against trespassing. The users immediately benefited from the application.
Fieldworkers appreciate that the app runs on the smartphones they already have and does not require a separate, bulky computer. The app presents the electric infrastructure overlain with environmental protection areas and publicly available reference data from agencies like the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Users easily view and query the features that are near their exact location, eliminating guesswork and saving time. Also, users see all the applicable environmental information about permits, easements, rights-of-way, and notification protocols. Timely information allows crews to meet environmental requirements without delay and enables them to focus their efforts on utility tasks.
The Collector for ArcGIS app gives field crews all the information they need:
. Current location
. Electrical infrastructure
. Environmental protection areas
. Compliance requirements
. Related documents (easements)
The user-friendly app is helping many different employees, including transmission teams, distribution crews, engineers, and environmental specialists. The sensitive-environment data is distributed securely, based on the user's role and needs.
The feedback from field crews is highly positive. They appreciate knowing when they are close to an area that requires special treatment as well as having prompt access to all relevant environmental information.
Collector for ArcGIS enables utilities to conveniently use maps and gather data in the field. This data is synchronized with enterprise GIS data and available across the organization. EPE uses the app to improve regulatory compliance and increase productivity of the utility's workforce.
Based on their success with the environmental application, EPE staff are looking for other ways to improve field workflows. They are testing mobile apps in other areas—avian incident reports, hazardous-waste spill records, and transmission line inspections—for additional capability and efficiency gains.