Thursday, December 1, 2022

Conservation groups file appeal to block Skiffes Creek construction

A simulated view of the Skiffes Creek project from the Kingsmill Resort area. (Courtesy Dominion Power)
A simulated view of the Skiffes Creek project from the Kingsmill Resort area. (Courtesy Dominion Power)

Two conservation groups have appealed a federal ruling in the hopes of blocking construction of the Skiffes Creek Transmission Line Project.

Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which both promote the conservation of historic lands, have filed a notice of appeal to review a ruling that allowed Dominion Power to continue construction of the Skiffes Creek Project, according to a news release from Preservation Virginia.

On May 24, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the two groups in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last July. The suit claimed the Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act when it issued a permit for the project to Dominion.

Lamberth ruled the Army Corps complied with both acts.

“As a steward of Historic Jamestowne and a voice for Virginia’s historic places since 1889, we are participating in this appeal to protect the historic, scenic and cultural integrity of the James River, the Colonial Parkway and Carter’s Grove, a National Historic Landmark,” Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth S. Kostelny said in the release.

The Skiffes Creek project will include the construction of 17 towers — some as tall as 295 feet — to carry an electrical transmission line over the James River to bring power from Dominion’s Surry County nuclear plant to lower James City County.

Dominion has said the project is necessary to provide reliable energy to customers on the Peninsula.

“We’re still confident in the court’s decision,” Dominion spokesperson Bonita Harris said. “We think the judge thoroughly analyzed the information on all sides. We think he understood the complex issues in the case, and why the [transmission] line is so important to the people living on the peninsula.”

“We hope his decision will prevail,” she added.

The plaintiffs also contend the project would directly harm historic sites along the river, including Jamestown Island, Colonial National Historical Park, the Colonial Parkway and the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

“Visitors to Colonial Parkway and the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail currently enjoy a river landscape that looks much as it did when the first permanent English colony was established at Jamestown in 1607,” said Sharee Williamson, associate general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Our appeal asks the court to order the Army Corps to take a closer look at alternative projects that would protect the James River at Jamestown.”

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