Monthly Archives: September 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.