Groups urge SCC to reject Dominion’s James River crossing options

Three interest groups in Virginia are urging the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) to consider the national significance of the state’s Historic Triangle and to reject Dominion Virginia Power’s proposal to build a 500-kV transmission line that would cross the James River.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Preservation Virginia, and the College of William & Mary wrote to the SCC on Oct. 10 to oppose Dominion’s proposed transmission line crossing the James River from Surry to Skiffes Creek.

“Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown comprise the Historic Triangle,” the groups said in the letter. “The James River and Jamestown, in particular, played a crucial role in the founding of Virginia and the nation.”

The three historic sites were preserved through an alliance of the National Park Service, Preservation Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Colonial Williamsburg.

“Visitors to Jamestown experience views of the James River that are essentially unchanged since 1607,” they said, noting that any damage to these views from a transmission line would cause a “national campaign of opposition.”

Dominion’s preferred route includes approximately 7.4 miles of new lines running from Surry County to James City County, and would make a 3.5-mile overhead crossing of the James River. The developers presented an alternate route that would be about 38 miles long and run between the Chickahominy Substation in Charles City County and a proposed substation in James City County.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in its August report to the SCC on project impacts to natural and cultural resources, recommended that one of three alternative James River crossings be considered before the crossing in the preferred route or the alternate Chickahominy-Skiffes option.

Three alternate routes were presented specifically for the James River crossing in the proposal by Dominion.

All three routes are similar to the preferred Surry-Skiffes configuration. The first alternative leaves the Surry shore and turns north in the river to follow the eastern side of Hog Island before turning east to cross the James River for 4.1 miles.

The second alternative leaves the Surry shore and turns northeast to follow the southern edge of an-existing pipeline corridor, making a total crossing of 3.8 miles.

The third alternative leaves the Surry shore and turns north in the river alongside Hog Island before turning northeast to cross the river for 4.1 miles.

A recommendation from the Department of Historic Resources, in association with the DEQ’s review, supports submerging the transmission line within or beneath the James River. Dominion’s stated policy is not to construct underground transmission facilities – when an overhead option exists – due to reliability and operating issues as well as much higher comparative costs.

The three interest groups said in their letter to the SCC that they have a joint application under consideration by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to grant the Historic Triangle a World Heritage status.

“We 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,” they said.

Visitors to the Historic Triangle and associated sites contribute approximately $1bn annually to the economy.