Monday, March 4, 2024

Army Corps schedules public meeting on environmental impact statement for Skiffes Creek power line

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)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has filed a notice of intent informing the public it plans to start preparing an environmental impact statement for Dominion Energy’s Skiffes Creek Transmission Line project.

The project’s 17 500-kilovolt towers are already constructed and energized over the James River, but the environmental impact statement is part of a post hoc legal battle between Dominion and several environmental groups opposing the power line.

After Dominion received a permit to build the transmission line in July 2017, the National Parks Conservation Association, Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation argued the Corps’ issuance of the permit violated the National Environmental Policy and Clean Water Act.

The permit was issued without the completion of the environmental impact statement, which a judge ruled in March should have been required ahead of the power line’s construction.

Moving forward, the retroactive preparation of the environmental impact statement involves at least one public meeting. 

On June 21, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would hold a “public scoping” meeting on July 17 as part of the environmental impact statement. 

The meeting will be from 5-8 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Williamsburg, 50 Kingsmill Road.

During the meeting, the public can give comments to the Army Corps to help identify significant issues — those issues should be addressed within the environmental impact study.

The finished environmental impact statement should be available for public review and comment around November.

Some environmental groups and local residents have been fighting the Dominion power line project for about seven years, some concerned about the impact to the river and its wildlife, others worried about preserving the viewshed along the historic James River.

According to the June 21 notice of intent, the Dominion transmission line permanently impacts 27,12 square feet of subaqueous river bottom and 281 square feet of non-tidal wetlands. It also converts 0.67 acres of palustrine forested non-tidal wetlands to palustrine scrub shrub non-tidal wetlands.

Dominion has said the 500,000-volt line is crucial to avoid rolling blackouts on the Virginia Peninsula. Some of the towers are as tall as 295 feet and carry power from Dominion’s Surry County nuclear plant to lower James City County.

Most recently, A Washington, D.C. Circuit Court judge made a decision to move the case back to the U.S. District Court for further proceedings.

That decision was a response to Dominion’s plea for a court to rehear its case in May, about two months after an appeals court judge ruled the project permit was given outside of the law.

A Dominion spokeswoman said the case moved back to the district court for a review — in detail — on whether the Corps permit should be revoked while the environmental impact statement is underway.

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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