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After more than a year of legal battles and an outpouring of local opposition to a power line proposed to cross the James River near Carter’s Grove, the James City County Board of Supervisors is poised to have the final say over the issue.
Dominion Virginia Power must receive a permit from the board to construct a switching station on land the utility owns near Skiffes Creek.
The utility filed papers with the county May 21 indicating it soon wants to formally apply for the permit.
Daisy Pridgen, a spokeswoman for Dominion, confirmed Wednesday the utility is focused on working through the county’s permit process for the station.
“We are hopeful for a positive result,” she said via email.
An April decision from the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the board’s right to weigh in on the switching station. The line would connect to the switching station, where the electricity it carries across the river would then be routed into the Peninsula’s power network.
Staff members from the utility and the county are scheduled to meet June 8 to discuss the initial filing, according to Paul Holt of the James City County Planning Division. During the meeting, county staff members will discuss with Dominion the various regulations like stormwater management and the accessibility of the station to ensure the application is as complete as possible when it is formally filed.
After the meeting, the utility could at any time file a complete application for the project. It would then take three to four months before the matter went before the board for final consideration.
At the board’s behest, James City County was one of three parties whose court challenge brought the proposed line before the supreme court. While the court agreed with state regulators that the route across the river was acceptable, it also agreed with the county that it had the right to have a say over the switching station site.
The switching station application is not the only barrier the utility faces for building the line. It must also receive permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps has not indicated when it will issue a ruling on the project.
Dominion says the line must be operational by April 2017, when it will be forced to shut down the coal-fired Yorktown Power Plant due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations. If the line is not in place by then, it says it will be forced to resort to cutting off power to customers for up to 80 days per year to avoid overloading the peninsula’s power network.
It contends the route across the James River is the only cost-effective option to bring the extra electricity to the peninsula. The line would cross the river beginning near the Hog Island State Waterfowl Refuge in Surry County and come ashore at a point near Carter’s Grove.
It would be most visible from Carter’s Grove, however the Colonial Parkway, the southern tip of Jamestown Island and residences in Kingsmill would also be affected.
The line has attracted opposition from preservation-minded groups concerned about how the line would affect historic resources. They believe the route would obliterate scenic views currently available on the river and that there are other routes for the line besides what Dominion prefers.
Dominion has issued a lengthy document outlining its rationale for selecting its preferred route. That document also explores several other commonly suggested routes and explains why it believes they are not feasible.