Wednesday, April 17, 2024

As Dominion finalizes transmission line, mitigation funding at work on Jamestown Island

Several of Dominion's towers for the Skiffes Creek Transmission Line can be seen along the horizon from several parts of Jamestown Island, including the bottom tip called Black Point. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Several of Dominion’s towers for the Skiffes Creek Transmission Line can be seen along the horizon from several parts of Jamestown Island, including the bottom tip called Black Point. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

As Dominion Energy works to finalize a $390 million power line project strung across the James River, other projects are also chugging along.

At the Jamestown Fort, the 1907 Memorial Church is being restored to a former version of itself — the church where the first legislative assembly in Virginia met in 1619. Exhibits in the Voorhees Archaearium are also coming together to highlight change over time in Jamestown’s early years of existence.

Those projects, while not led by Dominion, are at least partially-funded by the utility giant.

Between July and October 2017, Dominion released $90 million in funding to several statewide organizations and groups as part of a mitigation package for the Skiffes Creek Transmission Line project. The funding is intended to offset the impacts of the power line project.

That package included about $26 million for conservation organizations, according to Dominion, one being Preservation Virginia, a statewide nonprofit that conducts archaeology digs and research through a smaller group, Jamestown Rediscovery.

“Any funding that comes to our work at Jamestown helps to explore this chapter of American History,” said Elizabeth Kostelny, CEO of Preservation Virginia. “It helps us to uncover new information to understand who we are as Americans. It’s telling this broader story of Jamestown and life in those first decades — from many perspectives.”

Kostelny declined to specify how much funding Preservation Virginia received from the mitigation plan, deferring a WYDaily reporter back to Dominion.

“Preservation Virginia fought hard over five years to find alternatives to these transmission towers and continues to support the would-have-been alternatives,” Kostelny said.

Preservation Virginia is still involved in a legal case against Dominion Energy in the U.S. Court of Appeals opposing the project. The outcome of the case still has not been determined, according to court records.

The new power line is scheduled to energize by spring of 2019, Dominion spokesman Jeremy Slayton said.

The Jamestown projects

Preservation Virginia said its new projects and programs have been partially funded by the Dominion money, but some money also comes from other fundraising and grants.

“The project descriptions and the criteria utilized to select the projects and programs were approved by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Slayton said.

Some of the funding is immediately going into events celebrating the 2019 commemoration, which marks several important points in history including the arrival of the first Africans in the New World, the first legislative assembly at Jamestown, and more.

Some other funding will go toward continuing archaeology and research, Kostelny said.

In the next few years, the Dominion funding will also go toward a shoreline stabilization project, which will analyze and fix the sea wall that has prevented the area around Jamestown Fort from eroding into the James River.

The sea wall was built in 1902 by the Army Corps of Engineers prior to the 1907 anniversary of the colonists’ arrival in Jamestown.

The first step in the project is analyzing the sea wall and seeing exactly what needs to be done to fix it, Kostelny said. Work will proceed from there.

Preservation Virginia has known the sea wall needed work for about two decades, but funding has been slowly building up. While the project would have happened regardless of Dominion’s funding, the mitigation money helped expedite the project, Kostelny said.

“In terms of a replacement cost, it’s a high-dollar,” Kostelny said. “It’s something over the years that we’ve continued to seek funds for. This alleviates us from having to go out to raise the major dollars for it.”

Project status

The Switching Station is 98 percent complete, Slayton said.

All 17 towers have been erected across the James River. The connecting wire is 98 percent complete, and the 115 kilovolt and 230 kilovolt line upgrades are complete.

Slayton said Dominion “fully” expects PJM, the company running two coal-fired power plants in Yorktown, to apply for extensions through the Department of Energy to run the plants “to ensure reliability.

One the Skiffes Creek Transmission Line is complete, the Yorktown coal plants can be retired, Slayton said.

RELATED STORY: Feds OK firing up Yorktown coal plants

“The Skiffe’s Creek project is critical because it brings reliable electricity to our customers on the Peninsula and at the same time supports cleaner energy and cleaner air by allowing Dominion Energy to retire two coal burning units at Yorktown Power Station,” Slayton said.

Here’s a breakdown of the mitigation funding from Dominion:

  • The Conservation Fund ($26 million)
  • Chickahominy Indian Tribe ($1.5 million)
  • Department of Conservation & Recreation ($25 million)
  • Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ($4 million)
  • Virginia Environmental Endowment ($16 million)
  • Virginia Land Conservation Foundation ($12.5 million)
  • Pamunkey Indian Tribe ($4.5 million)

Correction: A previous version of this story said “At the Jamestown Fort, the 1907 Memorial Church is being restored to a former version of itself — the church where the first legislative assembly in Virginia, the House of Burgesses, met in 1619.” 

This statement, which came from the National Park Service, is incorrect. While the first legislative assembly did meet in 1619, it was not called the House of Burgesses. That was formed separately decades later.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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