Nonprofit Groups Form Coalition to Oppose Dominion’s Proposed Line Across the James River

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The green line across the James River represents where the over-river line would be built. The blue line represents another proposed line that would run from James City County to Hampton. (Photo courtesy Dominion Virginia Power)
The green line across the James River represents where the over-river line would be built. The blue line represents another proposed line that would run from James City County to Hampton. (Photo courtesy Dominion Virginia Power)

A coalition of nonprofits has launched a campaign to safeguard the James River from what it believes is an unwarranted intrusion by Dominion Virginia Power in the form of a power line proposed to cross the river near Carter’s Grove.

The utility wants to build a line from a switching station near Surry Nuclear Power Station that would cross the James River and come ashore near Carter’s Grove, where it would connect to a yet-to-be-built switching station.

Dominion says it needs to build the line to ensure the Peninsula has enough electricity flowing to it because of the looming retirement of the Yorktown Power Station due to federal environmental regulations. Without the line, the utility says the Peninsula could experience blackouts up to 80 days per year.

The Down to the Wire campaign seeks to convince the public the utility should try to either bury the line beneath the river, find an alternative route or explore alternative energy options that would not mar views at sites along the river including Historic Jamestowne, the Colonial Parkway, Carter’s Grove and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, which is a route for boaters that weaves through the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay.

To accomplish that end, the coalition — led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation — has started a series of online videos, the first of which is available here. It has also printed literature and sent people out to affected communities to discuss the issue and has wrapped a cargo van in imagery connected to the campaign.

The coalition has started a petition to Dominion to not build the line. It seeks 25,000 signatures and has so far reached 19,494.

Though the line has received approval from the state regulators tasked with analyzing it, the project must still clear a few hurdles.

It needs permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is analyzing the project and has not yet announced when it might finish that work. It must also clear a challenge to the Supreme Court of Virginia by James City County and two of the other groups in the coalition — the Save the James Alliance and the James River Association — that seeks to reverse the decision by state regulators.

The court has not yet issued a decision in the case.

Dominion plans to immediately begin construction once it receives USACE approval. The line would cross the river on towers with an average height of 160 feet — though four would be 295-feet tall — made of latticed metal. The utility has renderings of what it says the finished line would look like here, while the National Trust for Historic Preservation has created its own 3D rendering.

During the years of discussion connected to this project — Dominion first announced its plans in 2012 — the utility has been repeatedly asked why it does not build the line elsewhere or try to bury it. To answer those questions, it has released a lengthy document offering its reasons for settling on its preferred route instead of any other.

It has also set up a website to explain its position on the matter.

Other members of the coalition include the Chesapeake Conservancy, the Garden Club of Virginia, the National Parks Conservation Association, Preservation Virginia and Scenic Virginia.

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