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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

CW, WM and Preservation Virginia Oppose Power Line Across James River

A map of Dominion’s proposed power line locations. Click to enlarge.

Colonial Williamsburg (CW), the College of William & Mary and Preservation Virginia recently submitted a joint letter to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) opposing a proposed new power line crossing the James River.

Dominion Virginia Power has proposed two different sites for a new 500kV transmission line to meet power demand. Dominion announced the plans this spring, citing a preference for a line will cross the James River on overhead towers from the Surry Switching Station to southern James City County and continue along an existing electric transmission corridor to the Skiffes Creek Switching Station site. This is a cheaper, shorter route compared to the other plan that would cross the Chickahominy River. The decision on the new line will ultimately rest with the SCC.

The three organizations oppose the line due to its expected adverse effects on the billion-dollar local tourism industry, as well as the detrimental effect it may have on CW and Virginia Preservation’s joint bid to have the Historic Triangle designated a World Heritage site, according to the letter to the SCC.

The letter states that the Historic Triangle has been recognized for its national significance since the early 19th century, which is due to not only the history of the three sites it contains but also to their extensive preservation. Thanks to preservation efforts, “visitors to Jamestown experience views of the James River that are essentially unchanged since 1607,” according to the letter.

“The preservation of that viewshed is critical to portraying to future generations the history of the founding of America.”

The three organizations “are concerned that the proposed transmission line would compromise the effort to obtain World Heritage status and could diminish the Historic Triangle as an important economic driver in the region and in Virginia,” the letter states.

CW and Preservation Virginia announced in fall 2010 that they would work together to try to have to Triangle designated as a World Heritage site.

Roughly six million annual visitors come to the Triangle, contributing about $1 billion to the economy and generating $80 million in tax revenues, the letter notes.

James City County’s Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution opposing the Surry-Skiffes Creek line in March, citing similar reasons that included a concern for “significant adverse environmental, natural resource, historic and cultural resource impacts, which cannot be mitigated,” according to the resolution.

Dominion argues that the favored line under consideration is shorter and will impact less private and forested land, according to the Dominion web page on the proposal.

Though many citizens and members of the Board of Supervisors have suggested Dominion bury the line under the river, the power company asserts that this is not feasible technology yet.

Dominion could bury a smaller-capacity 230 kV line, but this would cost between $310 to $390 million, as opposed to running the 500 kV line over the river, which will likely cost about $60 million.

“Dominion considered both an underwater and a hybrid of underwater/overhead construction options but neither of these will allow time to complete the project by the needed date of mid-2015,” the website says.

Dominion also aims to build another smaller-capacity line that would run from the Whealton substation to the Skiffes Creek Switching Station.

There will be public hearings on the proposed lines at 4 p.m. and at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the Warhill High School Auditorium. The SCC will hold more hearings in Richmond in January.

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