U.S. DOI: proposed Skiffes Creek overhead transmission line “unsuitable”

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The Department of the Interior called the location of Dominion Power’s proposed Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line project “unsuitable,” in a letter sent Tuesday.

The remarks come in light of the fact Dominion Power has said it is preparing a “Remedial Action Plan” to shut off power to 150,000 customers in an “extreme case scenario.”

In a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell wrote: “All of this information…leads us to the conclusion that an overhead power line is unsuitable at this location.”

Jewell suggested that if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot deny the permit in spite of the “demonstrated significant impacts to irreplaceable historic resources,” the Army Corps of Engineers should then conduct an environmental impact statement, which would allow the corps to analyze more alternatives to the current proposal.

The secretary also said the process should include consultation with area Native American tribes.

“Robust tribal consultation, including with the Pamunkey Tribe, which has already expressed opposition to the project, is essential,” Jewell wrote.

Sharee Williamson, associate general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a group opposed to the project, said the importance of the historic area was affirmed in the letter.

“We were pleased to see Secretary Jewell weigh in on the importance of protecting the resources along the James River in the last days of her tenure,” Williamson said. “The National Trust for Historic Preservation agrees with the secretary that this project should not be approved as currently proposed. The reason for that is because there are technically feasible, cost-effective alternatives that can be built quickly that avoid harm to our national parks including Colonial National Park, Jamestown, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, and the Carter Grove national historic landmark.”

Dominion Power did not immediately respond to a request for comment before deadline.