Blythewood gains concessions on location of power lines

Oct. 28–The route SCE&G chose for massive power lines running through Northeast Richland would damage two multi-million dollar development projects along major roads, county officials said Thursday, charging that the power company failed to properly research government land-use plans.

But officials with the utility said a change of plans now could mean costly delays as SCE&G moves toward the 2016 start-up of new nuclear power plants in Fairfield County. Besides, they said, state regulators have the authority to override county requirements.

The state Public Service Commission is expected to rule on the location of the distribution lines by year’s end.

Observers said it’s unusual for a county government to object to a utility’s preferences on the placement of power lines.

But in Richland County, “Hundreds of millions of dollars in investment hang in the balance,” Councilwoman Val Hutchinson told the seven-member PSC during Thursday’s all-day hearing.

The town of Blythewood, meanwhile, which also had objected that massive overhead lines would undermine efforts to beautify downtown, settled with SCE&G.

The company announced it would pay the fast-growing town $450,000 over five years and modify power lines it plans at I-77 and Blythewood Road so they won’t be so intrusive.

Mayor Keith Bailey said the money would go toward burying smaller distribution lines running for about a third of a mile along Blythewood Road, from the bridge over I-77 east to Boney Road. The company’s contribution will cover about half the cost of the Fairfield Electric Co-op project, town administrator John Perry said.

SCE&G has mapped out a 37-mile route, starting at its VC Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County and shooting north to Winnsboro, then south along I-77 to Blythewood and on to Killian Road.

The company said it chose the route that would have the least impact to the environment, landowners and landscape. It also was the cheapest by $6.3 million.

“Our task is to minimize the impact,” said SCE&G’s manager of transmission planning, Clay Young.

Most of the project follows existing power lines. But the final leg of the project — extending six miles from Blythewood into Northeast Richland — involves a proposed new route.

And the last three miles generated objections from the county about lines that would:

–Run alongside a $55 million regional soccer and baseball tournament park planned on 206-acres at Farrow and Hard Scrabble roads, county property that is already bisected by power lines. The county designed around the existing lines only to find out about the second string of lines, which Hutchinson told the PSC is “unacceptable.”

–Detract from a major “town center” development of homes, hotels and shops long planned on about 400 acres near I-77 and Killian Road. Work could begin in the next two to five years on the project one county official referred to as “the Village at Sandhill on steroids.”

James B. Atkins, the county’s manager of environmental planning, said when the company collected land-use information, it did not confer with planning officials but pulled information off the county’s website. He noted that the GIS maps are labeled with disclaimers. Zoning maps, on the other hand, can be certified.

As a result, the company had the zoning designations wrong on the two parcels.

Atkins said if the company had put the right designations into its formula, they may not have selected those routes.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

___

(c)2011 The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Visit The State (Columbia, S.C.) at www.thestate.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.