Preservation groups to appeal Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line ruling

jojacobs@vagazette.com

Two historic preservation groups intend to appeal a federal judge’s recent ruling that Dominion Energy’s Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line project may proceed.

Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed a notice of appeal Monday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a review of a judge’s decision to rule against a lawsuit brought by the groups against the Army Corps of Engineers last summer. The lawsuit alleges the corps failed to prepare a full environmental impact statement, which would be a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, when it approved a permit for Dominion’s project in July.

That bid to stop the construction of the transmission line, which would run across the James River from James City to Surry, failed when the judge ruled against the lawsuit May 24, finding the corps had complied with the National Environmental Policy Act. The appeal would also seek to halt construction of the project for further study.

“Our appeal asks the court to order the Army Corps to take a closer look at alternative projects that would protect the James River at Jamestown,” said Sharee Williamson, National Trust for Historic Preservation associate general counsel, in a Preservation Virginia news release.

Dominion has said the $325 million project will ensure reliable electric service for more than 600,000 people. Opponents of the project have said the project threatens historic sites in the area and the environment.

Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Harris has called the project “one of the most heavily scrutinized infrastructure projects in the history of Virginia.”

The appeal comes after the National Parks Conservation Association, a conservation group, filed a separate notice of appeal June 1 to challenge the judge’s ruling.

The corps doesn’t comment on ongoing or pending litigation.

“As a steward of Historic Jamestowne and a voice for Virginia’s historic places since 1889, we are participating in this appeal to protect the historic, scenic and cultural integrity of the James River, the Colonial Parkway and Carter’s Grove, a National Historic Landmark,” Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth Kostelny said in the release. “We believe the process was flawed.”

Amid legal challenges, construction of the project is ongoing, with a target completion date of summer 2019. Dominion began moving transformers to the Skiffes Creek switching station June 5-6, which is being built as part of the project.

Both Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are represented by law firm Dentons, an international firm with an office in the District of Columbia.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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