New route recommended for portion of Dominion Virginia Power transmission project

A hearing examiner with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) has recommended a new route in connection with Virginia Electric and Power’s d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power’s Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission project.

According to Alexander Skirpan Jr.’s Feb. 6 report, a hearing was held on Jan. 30 to determine whether all necessary right-of-way (ROW) agreements for “Variation 4” were completed by Jan. 24, and if not, what variation should be approved. The necessary ROW agreements for that variation were not completed, Skirpan said, adding, “I find that Variation 4.1 should be approved for this portion of the route.”

As TransmissionHub reported last December, the SCC, in a Dec. 17, 2013 order, said it will grant reconsideration of the petition by Dominion Virginia Power in which the company sought relief from the SCC’s selection of the “James River Crossing Variation 4” as the route for the new 500-kV Surry-Skiffes Creek line.

Last November, the SCC issued its order that, among other things, granted the application for approval and for certificates of public convenience and necessity as provided therein and subject to certain requirements set forth in the order.

Last December, Dominion Virginia Power filed a petition for reconsideration on rehearing that was limited to a portion of the 500-kV route that crosses the James River into James City County. Specifically, the SCC approved James River Crossing Variation 4, which requires a ROW agreement between Dominion Virginia Power and the James City County Economic Development Authority (EDA).

In its petition, Skirpan added, the company asked the SCC to adopt James River Crossing Variation 1 if the company was unable to conclude a ROW agreement with the EDA within three weeks. In the alternative, Dominion Virginia Power asked the SCC to convene an expedited and limited hearing to consider the viability of Variation 4 and the selection of Variation 1 or an Adjusted Variation 4.

According to the report, Variation 4 moved the over-river crossing away from Jamestown Island and Carter’s Grove, but once on land in James City County, followed the same route as Variation 3, which was a route developed by the company but ultimately rejected by it due in part to its crossing “property owned by the EDA, which is a political subdivision of the commonwealth and body corporate and politic over whose property the company has no power of eminent domain.”

During the Jan. 30 hearing, counsel for James City County and the EDA confirmed that the EDA and Dominion Virginia Power had not entered into a ROW or easement agreement. Furthermore, Skirpan added, adjustments to Variation 4, that would remain on BASF Corporation property and avoid crossing land owned by either the EDA or Williamsburg Developments, Inc. (WDI), a subsidiary of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, were offered by Dominion Virginia Power (Variation 4.1) and BASF (Variation 4.2).

During the hearing, Dominion Virginia Power presented Elizabeth Harper, coordinator of siting and permitting in electric transmission lines for the company, who noted that Variation 4.1 comes ashore from the James River crossing at the same point as Variation 4, and after 200 feet turns east and spans between a warehouse owned by Colonial Penniman to the north and an abandoned building to the south on property also owned by Colonial Penniman, and continues east toward BASF Drive and the Dow Chemical substation, where the line would turn to the north towards the Skiffes Creek switching station.

Of the current estimated construction schedule for Variation 4.1, she noted, for instance, that SCC approval would be obtained in March, followed by the start of construction in December. The 500-kV line would be done in May 2016, while the 230-kV line would be done in September of that year. The company continues to support Variation 1 as the better route as compared to Variation 4.1, she said.

In his discussion, Skirpan noted that the EDA’s position has not changed in months and counsel for James City County and the EDA provide no indication that the EDA’s position is likely to change.

“Therefore, based on the record developed during the Jan. [30] hearing, I find that because the EDA and Dominion Virginia Power have not completed the necessary [ROW] agreements, Variation 4 can no longer be considered a viable route,” he said.

Variation 1 continues to be the company’s preferred and recommended route, but represents the most objectionable route for BASF, he said, adding that the company offered Variation 4.1 as a viable, buildable route, but warned that the route presents risks to the project’s schedule and may adversely affect the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ process.

While BASF proposed Variation 4.2, a company witness said that variation could not be built based on the lack of space for the required angle structures where Variation 4.2 departed from Variation 4.

The BASF property, a former acrylic fiber manufacturing facility, is undergoing extensive environmental remediation to prepare the more than 620-acre property, with about two miles of frontage on the James River, for development. Variation 1, Skirpan added, would include placing a transmission tower and ROW within “Area 4C,” which is the site of a capped landfill that contains the reinterred excavated materials from seven former lagoons and impoundments, and will have a bio-barrier trench and a phytroremediation plot of hybrid poplars. BASF maintained that if this variation is adopted, it will face added costs to re-engineer remediation for that area.

In the Jan. 30 hearing, a BASF witness said that Variation 4.1, as compared to Variation 4, had a negative effect on the potential development of the BASF property, contending that Variation 4.1 diminished redevelopment value by locking up 20 to 30 acres.

“Consequently, I find that while Variation 4.1 continues to have less of an impact than Variation 1 on future development of the BASF property, such benefits are no longer as great as they were when comparing Variation 4 to Variation 1,” Skirpan added.

The choice between Variation 1 and Variation 4.1 involves the weighing of the impacts to, and risks associated with, the BASF property remediation, and the impacts on future development versus differences in visual impacts and risks associated with the project’s construction schedule, he said.

“Based on the record developed in this case, I find that the (i) impacts to, and risks associated with, the BASF property remediation, and (ii) the impacts on future development continue to outweigh the (iii) differences in visual impacts and (iv) risks associated with the project’s construction schedule,” he said. “Therefore, I recommend that the commission amend the certificate of public convenience and necessity that was granted in its November … order for the routing of the 500 kV Surry-Skiffes Creek line to follow Variation 4.1, as developed during the Jan. [30] hearing.”

Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE:D).

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.