Reynolds Topeka Electric System Improvement

Client: Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO)
Completion Date: Line in service - 2017
Location: North Central Indiana


Burns & McDonnell provided a variety of services from routing to land acquisition for the Reynolds Topeka Electric System Improvement Project. This 100-mile, 345-kV electric transmission project extends from the existing substation in Reynolds, Indiana, to the existing substation in Burr Oak, Indiana, and then terminates at the existing Hiple substation near Topeka, Indiana. The project is part of the Midwest Independent System Operator's (ISO's) multivalue portfolio of projects to improve system reliability, increase access to wind and solar, and regulate consumer cost.

After consulting with local, state and federal agencies regarding the project, Burns & McDonnell developed a project study area based on environmental and land use features in the project area. Our team identified a network of alternative routes, organized and coordinated public involvement activities and participated in two rounds of open house meetings to present the study area and preliminary routes to the public, affected landowners and community leaders. The project also included meetings with advisory groups and local leaders to help refine the public involvement process. Burns & McDonnell’s GIS staff prepared all maps and figures for use at agency, advisory group, local leader and public open house meetings, managed the dissemination of data for and use of OneTouchPM™ and ArcMobile sites, and performed a quantitative analysis of the routes to help select a final route to move forward into permitting and right-of-way acquisition.


  • Agency coordination
  • Alternatives analysis
  • Cost controls
  • Document controls
  • Environmental field work
  • GIS analysis
  • Permitting
  • Preliminary transmission design
  • Public involvement and stakeholder outreach
  • Right-of-way acquisition
  • Routing study
  • Scheduling
  • Substation design
  • Surveying


The primary issues associated with the project included: landowner/community involvement; potential crossings of the Tippecanoe River; coordination with two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts (USACE); federal, state and conservation lands; and airports/airstrips throughout the project area. Alternative routes were evaluated based on locally important environmental and social issues, as well as engineering criteria. Burns & McDonnell presented the rationale for the selection of the preferred route to NIPSCO and provided a detailed report including the compiled information, public involvement activities and alternatives analysis for documentation of the routing process.

Burns & McDonnell also performed all environmental surveys required to document the presence of cultural resources, wetlands, threatened and endangered species habitat and other concerns for permitting. Our team acquired all necessary environmental permits for the proposed route from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), State Historic Preservation Office, USACE, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Environmental Management and others as needed.

The project spans two USACE districts, Louisville and Detroit, and two regional supplements, Midwest and North Central, in addition to the Bloomington Field Office of the USFWS. A 300-foot-wide survey corridor was delineated on foot for the presence of wetlands and other waters of the U.S and the state. The same survey corridor was assessed for threatened and endangered species habitat with particular focus on the Indiana bat. Tablet PCs and sub-meter GPS units were used in the field to track property access as well as update environmental team members on parcels completed, locations and boundaries of wetlands and streams identified, potential roost sites, etc. Daily updates were made available to team members and NIPSCO.

Burns & McDonnell managed the right-of-way acquisition for the project, including establishing a field office, obtaining right-of-entry permissions, obtaining and reviewing title reports, conducting agent training, preparing survey and easement exhibits and other documents for easement acquisition, access, and special conditions, recording agreements, securing access roads and storage yards, notifying property owners, and supporting NIPSCO in condemnation proceedings.


As part of the public involvement portion of the project, Burns & McDonnell:
  • Branded the project and designed a corresponding logo.
  • Created communications plans and outreach materials.
  • Developed the Stakeholder Data Management System (SDMS) for real-time tracking of inquiries, responses, mailing lists, documents, meetings, acquisition progress and other project data; this system was available to the project team via the web.
  • Wrote and designed project fact sheets including a project overview, electric and magnetic field (EMF) data, vegetation management, and permitted and non-permitted use on the right of way.
  • Set up and managed a project hotline, website and e-mail address; responded to landowner and other stakeholder inquiries.
  • Planned, provided materials for and attended nine public open houses to present the project study area and route network at locations across Indiana.
  • Assembled and met with an advisory group made up of members of the community several times throughout project to solicit input and feedback.
  • Developed and conducted training for the project team and NIPSCO staff on key messages.
  • Developed and conducted training for right-of-way agents prior to starting acquisition.