Resistance on the Riverfront

I’ve defined my solution to the James River power-line problem to vote in favor of the alternate route instead of the originally proposed one. It would, instead of spreading across the river, cut through the wetlands along the coast of the river up to the Chickahominy switching station. However, many people would be in opposition of this idea, as not only is it significantly more expensive, it is longer in length and impacts the John Smith trail and the surrounding wetlands.

Of those in opposition, Dominion is extremely against this alternative route; they claim it to be considerably worse in comparison to the first suggested route. This chart, in Hearing Examiner Alexander Skirpan’s final report on August 29th 2013, he summarizes the impacts of both suggested routes:

Hearing Examiner’s report; page 11, August 29th, 2013

The chart shows that the alternate, which I am for, is extremely outrageous economically and environmentally. The difference in cost and land consumption alone makes their argument for the original plan to feel like the better option. Therefore, any number of taxpayers and conservationists could also oppose this alternate solution.

Another party that can be assumed in opposition would be environmentalists in an attempt to prevent Virginia wetlands from being scarred more by industrialization. Where the original route could possibly ruin the James by destroying its sturgeon population and kicking up muck from under the sand, cutting through Virginia’s wetlands could also equally impose on the environment. Real estate owners will also be affected; just because they don’t own waterfront property doesn’t mean that the homes in the second suggested area will not lose value.

As a resident of the Historic Triangle area, I can only do so much. I can post comments in the Last Word section of the local paper, attempt to make the problem more known at an expense to myself, or completely disregard it and leave the big boys to decide. Where Dominion has its name and its established empire, I have an associate’s degree in Social Sciences and youth. The best I can do is to appeal to our local paper enough to perhaps persuade interest in the topic, and hope that the State Corporation Commission makes the right decision.

Works Cited:

“Document List For Case Number : PUE-2012-00029.”SCC Docket Search. State Corporation       Commission, 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 1 Nov 2013. <http://docket.scc.state.va.us/CyberDocs/Libraries/Default_Library/Common/frameviewdsp.asp?doc=133193&lib=CASEWEBP_LIB&mimetype=application/pdf&rendition=native>.

A Possible Solution to the James

Last week I defined the main problem with my social issue as the idea that Dominion Virginia Power wants to succeed in building power lines over the James River in a direct tourist spot, located essentially in Jamestown settlement. They are fighting adamantly on getting the permit to start building soon, and are only waiting for the State Corporation Commission (or SCC) to approve of it.

I am clearly against Dominion in the destination they have chosen to build the lines, but not the idea of building them itself. I know that the Virginia peninsula needs the new power upgrade due to the Yorktown station closing in 2015, and that without the new transmission line Dominion will not be up to governmental standards approaching summer 2015. The idea that they have chosen to mar the beauty of arguably Virginia’s most significant historical site without a second thought give me the impression that they don’t necessarily give a hoot what they mess up when they build, as long as it’s not at a disadvantage to them.

I feel that the SCC should choose to allow Dominion to build on the alternative route offered during the court trial. It’s a route that is significantly longer in length, and costs more, but it does not cut across the James nor is it really intruding though the historical portion of Virginia. Part of the route is attached to existing transmission towers, and cuts through to the Chickahominy switching station. This would be my primary solution regarding this issue, because it is currently the only alternative to the lines being built over the historical river.

In order to implement this solution, first, the SCC would have to vote in favor of it. Currently, there is a letter with new information submitted by the United States Department of the Interior causing a ruckus; Dominion does not want it to be considered in the final decision, whereas James City County, the primary group in opposition, is all for it. If the community could come together and help enforce that the new information should be used in consideration for the final decision, it may alter the potential choice that the council will agree upon.
If this were to be successful, Dominion would most likely attempt to appeal the decision, and other stakeholders would pop up depending on how the council framed the verdict. It would have potential viable points against the decision, such as the price or the effects of the new location. My argument is mostly value-based; I really just don’t want my historical sites to be ruined by industrialization and the presence of power lines crossing the most important river on the East Coast.

 

Works Cited:

“Document List For Case Number : PUE-2012-00029.”SCC Docket Search. State Corporation Commission, 25 Oct.

2013. Web. 1 Nov 2013. <http://docket.scc.state.va.us/CyberDocs/Libraries/Default_Library/Common/frameviewdsp.asp?doc=133193&lib=CASEWEBP_LIB&mimetype=application/pdf&rendition=native>.

The Problem with Dominion

                My chosen social issue is about Dominion Virginia Power attempting to build lines across the James River, in direct site of Historic Jamestown and through the preserved wetlands surrounding the area. It’s not a normal topic to become invested in if one is not from the Historic Triangle, but it can be related to other areas rich in historic or environmental beauty being threatened by industrialization.

Basically, the problem is that Dominion wants to build the lines over the James River, and is very adamant against backing down from their position. The company claims that it is the most economically sound choice for the Tidewater region in a statistical, money related standard, regardless of where it crosses the river, and must be built by August 2015 to keep the company up to governmental standards. It opposes every alternative option that has been suggested to it, and is currently arguing for rights to build a switching station and run the lines across the river. Hearing Examiner Alexander Skirpan supports their proposition in his final report on the subject of the lines.

If this were indeed to be built exactly the way Dominion would like it to, the lines would be visible from a large portion of the river, since the Historic Triangle area of the James is substantially populated. It would not only be residents of the community that would have to look at these 300 feet towers every time they visited Jamestown, so would every single tourist that chooses the Tidewater area to spend their vacation. Anyone who enjoys marine activities would have to look at them, anyone who takes the ferry to and from Williamsburg to Surry Country will have to look at them, and anyone who owns real estate along the river would have to look at them.

In conclusion, having the lines over the James River cannot be solely considered a general clump of tax dollars being spent for something the collective community does not want. It also has qualitative consequences Dominion seems to just push to the side. Even if tourism doesn’t have a set numerical value, nor do rides over the ferry, they still need to be considered in the overall economic impact this project would have if it is approved. In Dominion’s defense the lines will amp up the power in the Tidewater region for years to come, but is it worth it?

Refresh and Position

As children, every one of us has learned about the importance of Virginia to the entire United States of America. At the very least, we were taught that this country started in Jamestown way back in 1607, when the English settlers first reached America and established Jamestown alongside the James River. It’s been over 400 years since the settlement was built, but its history and many of its artifacts remain for us to wonder over at the current Jamestown Settlement. However, this area is now in danger.

                Imagine this: you’re visiting Jamestown, and are walking through the replica Indian Village towards the docks, learning about the history of our great nation one straw hut after another.  You decide to double back to take a journey through the replica settlement itself and look through the various buildings, watch a blacksmith in colonial garb make a sword, and laugh at the flock of chickens darting around and through the buildings. In the distance you see the ships, and as you approach the docks the glorious James River stretches in front of you. But, at the end of the dock, the destination you were intent on reaching, power lines can be seen in the distance, marring this site for every person visiting the Settlement.

                Power lines across the James River in such an important place proposes many problems for the community and the river itself. Local businesses and tourist attractions would be affected by the lines because they scar the historical value of the area. For example, Busch Gardens, a popular theme park in Williamsburg, would be just another park if it weren’t for the history around it.  If the lines are indeed built, they would disturb the bottom of the river, taking up a significant amount of space, and affecting the populations of oysters, the endangered Atlantic Sturgeon, and other species along the riverbed. The Historic Triangle, for the most part, has proposed for the lines to be built in an alternate route, under the river itself, or updating existing lines down the peninsula.

                However, Dominion Power, in support of the power lines to extend across the James River, has been adamantly fighting for their original plan to be approved. They’ve only altered it slightly since the problem was created a little over a year ago in June. The company believes that it is the only acceptable route to run the lines, in addition to building the switching station along the Williamsburg shoreline. The only thing holding them back from starting construction on the station is that they need a permit to build on the selected land, and they have yet to receive it due to so much opposition. They stand by the argument that the area is in desperate need of the lines, and that by August 2015 the Tidewater area’s power supply will not be up to regulation.

                We understand the power lines are necessary to the east coast of Virginia. The lines are continuing to cause a ruckus amongst the local community; but, the bottom line is that we basically do not want the lines in view of Jamestown Settlement. Dominion refuses to back down from its position as well, and both sides are waiting anxiously for the conclusion of the case with the Norfolk District of the Army Corps of Engineers, whom will deem whether or not Dominion will receive the special permit it’s been seeking for over a year now to start building. Until the case is resolved, both sides refuse to back down, and the James River continues to be in jeopardy of falling even further into the claws of industrialization.

My Position

One of the most important areas of America’s history is in danger. The James River, named as such in honor of King James I, was chosen as the ideal location to build Jamestown Settlement. Now, over 400 years later, the local community prides itself in keeping the area as close to its original magnificence as possible, and giving the rest of the world the opportunity to learn about the past without having to pick up a textbook. However, recently the beauty of this area has been endangered. Dominion Virginia Power, the primary source of electricity amongst the state, has proposed that power lines be extended in plain sight over the James.

                The idea behind the lines is a decent one; the tidewater region needs the extra boost in power in order to sustain acceptable regulations. The proposed lines would extend over the James River and run from the Surry Switching station to the newly proposed Skiffes Creek Switching station. Dominion offered this idea, featuring some 300 feet tall posts though a stretch of the river a year ago in June. I assume they did not realize just how much resistance they would be facing because of it.

                As a resident of the Historic Triangle area for my entire life, it’s safe to say that when my community is against something, we fight adamantly against it until it goes into our favor. We pride ourselves in the beauty and historical significance of our towns and do not like when it becomes endangered. Therefore, when I first heard about the lines and the James I was kind of surprised it had made it so far into planning. I regularly visit the history my town has to offer me, whether its Colonial Williamsburg for a stroll down “DoG” street, Yorktown for a visit to the beach, or Jamestown to marvel at their museum and sight of the river. However, I know that the sight of power lines in direct view at one of my favorite places to visit would greatly upset me.

                Therefore, I am against the lines, regardless of how important they are to the area. I do not really care where they are put, as long as it is not over the James River. Alternate options have been offered, such as crossing the river on existing towers, down the peninsula on existing towers away from the river, or even under the James itself. Regardless, Dominion still stands by its position, but we will not let them win easily. Think of beautiful places you’ve visited in the past, and imagine something marring the image, whether it’s a building, power lines, or even a road. That’s why I will defend the James.

Positions on the Power Lines

For the last couple of months, the Historic Triangle area has been in an argument with Dominion regarding power lines being installed over the James River. The original problem with the situation is that the lines would indeed be visible from the docks in Historic Jamestown; however, the area understands that the need for the lines is necessary, along with the Surry-Skiffes Creek Switching Station to be built close to the colonial town. 

There are other issues with the proposed idea of building the lines on their original route. I have mentioned in the past about real estate being affected and also tourism; who would want to take a picture on the docks of Jamestown with power lines looming in the distance behind them? In addition to this, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service will further prevent construction in regards to the James River’s Atlantic Sturgeon population and its spawning seasons (Langley 4).

Dominion stands by the original route offered though. They claim is the most financially acceptable area, and the only one able to be completed by August 2015, a deadline necessary to safely provide electricity to the Tidewater Area. The company “has rejected alternatives for a number of reasons, such as the potential for the line to encroach on military bases, an unacceptable number of private residences that could be affected and a lack of reliability,” (Voll). The only thing preventing them from starting construction is a permit from the Norfolk District of the Army Corps of Engineers (Langley 4).

The side in opposition to Dominion vary from no lines at all to other alternatives for the lines themselves. Most of the local population and area accept the fact that the lines need to be built, but have emphasized heavily on an alternate route. For example, many are in favor of, if the lines were indeed to be built along the same route, they should be built underwater. Another idea is upgrading the lines further inland at another crossing point rather than building a whole new Switching Station right at the start of the James River. And another is equipping a new 500 kV power line along existing towers down the peninsula, shown in the image below as the dotted blue line (Parker).

Map of proposed/existing lines and switching stations, taken from Desiree Parker’s article in the WY Daily, Oct 17th 2012.

So the argument stands as such: Dominion wants the lines and station on the originally proposed route, which has been updated slightly over the year. However, the locals of the Historic Triangle area would much prefer an alternate route or an upgrade to previously built lines. This is still an ongoing argument for the Army Corps in charge of assigning the permit for Dominion to start working on the project. As of October 2013, those in opposition of the line are asking for a public hearing in order to “fully explore all likely impacts of this project,” a quote taken from an online petition against the lines (Langley 4).

Works Cited:

Langley, Cortney. “Power Line Foes Gain Momentum Online.”Daily Press [James City] 30 Sep 2013, 4. Print.

Parker, Desiree. “CW, WM and Preservation Virginia Oppose Power Line Across James River.” WY Daily [Williamsburg-Yorktown] 17 Oct 2012, n. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://wydaily.com/2012/10/17/cw-wm-and-preservation-virginia-oppose-power-line-across-james-river/>.

Voll, Brittany. “Closing Briefs Filed in Dominion Overhead Power Line SCC Case.” WY Daily [Williamsburg-Yorktown] 29 May 2013, n. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

 

 

 

James’ Stakes

The Historic Triangle is a rather broad area stretching from Jamestown to both Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown. The area itself is about 207 square miles, and has a combined population of about 94,000 people. It’s a somewhat wealthier portion of Virginia, and is a prime area to both live and visit, depending on your preference to tourism or being an actual tourist (“A Statistical…”).

With this large amount of people living in the Tidewater area, there are countless numbers of stakeholders regarding the power lines and the James River. The one that I have elaborated the most upon are the locals and how this will affect both our local economy, and our pride in our historic, centuries-old landmarks. The site of the lines would permanently destroy a beautiful and important part of U.S. history; an area barely touched by industrialization. Other stakeholders include—but are in no means limited to—Dominion itself, tourists, homeowners, and conservationists.

Since I have been paying so much attention to the locals, I would like to bring up Dominion as a stakeholder as well. Being a Business Major, I understand not just the negative attributes this project will have on the area and its economy, but also the potential opportunities. Building the lines, regardless, creates hundreds, possibly thousands of jobs for the community. Any number of employees of Dominion can be affected as to whether or not the lines will be built. The Tidewater region clearly needs the additional power, or it would not be a topic of interest (or conflict).

Another group stakeholders are tourists. I recently visited Jamestown in all its beautiful glory (at least the “free for locals” portion) and found the exact site where the lines would be visible on the James to a visitor:

Photo by Jenny Silva. Taken Sept 22, 2013.

A view so wonderful would indeed be marred by the presence of power lines extending across the river. This image is taken by myself from the end of the dock at Jamestown, where the replicas of The Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed are stored (be on the lookout for more images from my trips to the Historic Areas; they’ll be posted in separate pages as I visit them!). This could potentially decrease the amount of visiting to that particular site, and create a loss of jobs at the historical sites.

In addition to locals, Dominion and tourists, homeowners are affected too. They are closely related to locals to an extent, but I am aiming these stakeholders whom actually own real estate along the river bank. The Williamsburg area has several prime communities to live in, and nearly all of them have waterfront homes along the James. Those who own these homes are primarily adamant against the lines if they could potentially be built within sight of their property, not to mention the extremely large proposed Surry-Skiffes switching station. The lines not only will bring down the values of these homes, but also of the whole area itself.

My final stakeholders would be conservationists. This term can be broadly used to represent both those in historical conservation and also environmental conservation. I assume historical conservation is a bit obvious by now; I’ve heavily based my argument thus far on keeping the Triangle relatively free from the clutches of industrialization. Conservationists of the environmental sort are also affected by these lines. How might the James River itself be disturbed with the building of the lines, were they to be placed either over or under the water? Pollution and the possibilities of natural disasters; how will that effect the area? What portion of land is the Switching station being built on and how will that shake things up in the river and surrounding areas?

Works Cited:

“A Statistical Snapshot of the Historic Triangle.” . York County. Web. 26 Sep 2013. <http://www.yorkcounty.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=2u/fT2Usuhk=&tabid=14237>.

“Locality Profile: Williamsburg City” . Center of Economic and Policy Studies. Web. 26 Sep 2013. <http://www.coopercenter.org/econ/locality-profile?loc_fips=51830&loc_name=Williamsburg City>.

Dominion’s Proposal for Lines

About a year ago, Dominion, the main provider of electricity in the state of Virginia, expressed their idea to build power lines and a switching station over and near the Historic Triangle. The lines, if built over the river, would be seen by any and all visitors to Jamestown Settlement, and constantly by the owners of private real estate along the James.

Over the last ten years, the Tidewater area has grown quite substantially; so much so that the original planning for the lines’ necessity to be built moved from 2019 to 2015. As stated in a recently released case file regarding the lines, “Dominion Virginia Power stated that electric power flow studies conducted with PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”), projected that by the summer of 2015, the Company’s transmission facilities will violate mandatory North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) Reliability Standards and that the failure to address these projected violations could lead to loss of service and potential damage to the Company’s electrical facilities…”(Skirpan, Jr). This is possibly due to the retiring of the Yorktown switching station, which, upon closing, will greatly affect the efficiency of providing electricity effectively throughout the area. However, Dominion has been given a great deal of trouble in the context that the local do not want the lines visible.

As a resident of Williamsburg, I live literally ten minutes from the Surry-Williamsburg Ferry and the entrance to Jamestown. I, like many other locals, occasionally visit the historic views that my city offers me; strolls through Colonial Williamsburg on nice days, getting ice cream at Yorktown after walking the beaches, and even day trips to Jamestown with my extended family on vacation. I like the idea that I can stand on the docks at Jamestown, looking over the replicas of the three boats that brought the original settlers to the area, and see naught but water, trees, and sea birds. I do not, however, like the idea that, as I’m walking past the church and towards the museum, I will also be able to see the signs of industrialization looming over one of the most important parts of America’s history: the James River.

Through May 8th, 2013, the Commission received a substantial number of people both opposing and promoting the lines. Those in opposition of the lines include the College of William and Mary, the City of Williamsburg, and Preservation Virginia. In addition, 95 public comments support the idea of submerging the lines, and 741 public comments on a Change.org online petition voted to stop the overheading of the line. Of the 741, a solid 600 of the comments were from Virginia alone, the rest as a result of both other states and, surprisingly, 17 foreign counties (Skirpan, Jr.).

The local population understands the need for the lines; however, we believe that, in order to preserve the historical sites and tourism in our area, the lines must go under the James, or be built somewhere else. The main problem is that Dominion claims there is not the technology to currently do this. One must read between the lines on their accusation. Power lines have indeed been built underwater; it IS possible. It just has not been done on such a broad scale. The section Dominion plans on covering is about 4 miles in length, a distance seemingly absurd to test run relatively new technology.

Works Cited:

Skirpan, Jr., Alexander. N.p.. Web. 19 Sep 2013. <https://www.dom.com/about/electric-transmission/skiffes/pdf/he-rpt-080213.pdf>.

(MLA)

Sparks Fly Over the Historic James

The state of Virginia is well known for its history; after all, our great nation started here in Historic Jamestown. Those who have visited this wonderful area have seen the grounds many battles have been fought on, the original sight of the town built over 400 years ago, and have sat in the very church the colonists prayed in. Next to this historic site runs the James River, one of the key trading routes in the early life of America.

The area is still as beautiful as it had been all those years ago. James City County prides itself in keeping the local history of the Tidewater area relatively untouched by modern societies; anyone who has visited these areas know the lack of air conditioning in the summer,  the distant walks to the local bathroom facilities the further one gets into the historic areas, and that there are very few paved roads. The area is well maintained and kept clean, and is a staple for many wildlife species.

However, about a year ago in June, Dominion, the primary provider of electricity in Virginia and practically a monopoly, proposed plans to extend power lines across the James River before their Yorktown plant is retired, and build a new switching station at Skiffes Creek. The extension is necessary, with the amount of growth on the peninsula has seen over the last decade alone. The company claims that, in order to provide emergency power to the Hampton Roads area, the new lines must go down, and they refused to upgrade the Richmond route to provide more power to the area (Langley).

Dominion most likely did not realize that a statement spoken with such nonchalance would ultimately bring community members of the historic areas, conservationists, and the local towns of Williamsburg, Yorktown, James City and Surry against them. Many of these stakeholders consider the idea of the lines fairly unsightly amongst real estate owners along the James, and fear it would hurt tourism visiting the Historic Triangle, which is a primary source of income in the area. The locals support and understand that the lines are necessary; however, they asked Dominion to find another way to put the lines down, and proposed that they go under—rather than over—the river.

Whereas this seemed like the obvious course of action amongst many of the tax payers in the area, Dominion strongly opposed it. The company claimed that “the technology doesn’t exist” to bury the lines to that extent, and that, through a recent legislation, Virginia code 15.2-2404 Section F, the brunt of the cost would be put upon the locals themselves (Voll).

It seems like a logical opposition; however, “the Surry-Skiffes Creek line is just a piece of a 14-state project”, as explained by Brittany Voll, a writer for WYDaily and local news site for the Williamsburg-Yorktown area. She quotes Roberts District Supervisor John McGlennon:  “this project would be constructed as part of a consortium of power companies covering some 14 states, and the cost would be spread across the entire base of customers over the 60-year life span of the lines.” McGlennon continued to question Dominion’s creditable information, claiming the proposed $390 million to install underwater power lines is greatly exaggerated (“Is…”).

Dominion has greatly encouraged the public to allow the lines over the water, claiming they would be harder to maintain, and would take longer to install if even possible. The company has expressed a deadline of August 2015 to have the lines completed, a driving force in their argument. The locals continue to fight adamantly against them, pushing the project back even more by attempting to force Dominion to get a special-use permit to actually start construction on the Skiffes Creek Switching station (“JCC…”).

Works Cited:

Langley, Cortney. “Lines over James River Won’t Fly.” Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg] 11 Apr. 2012: n. pag. Print.

Voll, Brittany. “JCC Submits Court Petition to Block Proposed Power Line Over James River.” Williamsburg Yorktown Daily. N.p., 21 July 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.

Voll, Brittany. “Is Burying Proposed Power Line Across James an Option?” Williamsburg Yorktown Daily. N.p., 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.