Court voids power line permit

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

A U.S. appeals court voided Dominion Energy’s permit Friday for its newly constructed power line across the James River just days after the line was activated. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete an environmental impact statement for the Surry-Skiffes transmission line, a 7.7-mile power line that runs across the James River near sensitive historical sites. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The court ruled that the Corps failed to follow legal requirements when it permitted Dominion to build the power lines, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Virginia, the two organizations that brought the suit against the Corps. 

The controversial project includes 17 transmission towers, more than 200 feet tall, that opponents have long claimed will damage the viewshed of the area, which includes Jamestown Island. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The lines will run from Dominion’s Surry Power Plant near Hog Island on the west side of the James River to James City County, where it will meet the switching station. 

The court found that the Corps had failed to considered construction alternatives as required by the National Historic Preservation Act, according to Brittney Jubert, marketing manager for Preservation Virginia.

It is the National Trust’s position that the towers are not necessary to connect the line from Surry to Skiffes Creek, said Sharee Williamson, associate general counsel to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Dominion said the towers are not visible from the Jamestown fort, Colonial Williamsburg or the Yorktown Battlefield. 

Since construction of the project has already been completed, Williamson said that the court finding is still being studied by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and did not say specifically that the towers would be removed as a result of the ruling.

Dominion stated that the Corps had spent four years on its environmental assessment and is disappointed that the ruling dismisses that effort. 

“The Skiffes Creek Transmission project remains a valid and vital line serving the 600,000 residents who live and work on the peninsula,” according to Dominion’s statement. 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Public Affairs Chief Patrick Bloodgood said that the Corps is still evaluating the court ruling and what it entails. 

The power lines also allowed Dominion to retire is aging Yorktown coal-fired power plant and access low- to no-carbon sources of power, including the Surry Power Plant across the James River, according to Dominion.  {/mprestriction}