Monthly Archives: October 2013

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.