Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line powers on

Staff writer

Dominion Energy has flipped the switch on the Surry-Skiffes Creek power line project.

Dominion erected 17 towers on a stretch of the James River from a new switching station at Skiffes Creek in James City County to Surry County. Dominion wrapped up the $390 million project well ahead of its target completion date of summer 2019.

Construction on the towers, which are needed to carry a 500-kilovolt transmission line from James City County to Surry, kicked off late last summer. Construction of the towers was completed in January, and the line actually energized Tuesday, Dominion spokesman Jeremy Slayton said in an email.

The project has long been a target of critics, who charged the transmission towers threaten the area’s historical and environmental resources. In response, Dominion has called the project necessary to maintain a sufficient level of electric service to its customers on the Peninsula.

“This transmission line is vitally important to ensure reliability to the more than 600,000 people who live and work on the Peninsula,” Slayton said.

A switching station in James City County was also constructed as part of the project. The Army Corps of Engineers, state and federal preservation organizations and Dominion agreed to a $90 million mitigation plan to offset the project’s effects on the area.

“(The project) was designed and constructed in coordination with local jurisdictions, state and federal authorities and numerous stakeholders, with the least possible impacts to visual, cultural and environmental priorities in the vicinity of the Historic Triangle,” Slayton said.

With the transmission line powered on, the Yorktown power plant’s coal-burning units 1 and 2 are scheduled for retirement in March. The oil-fired unit 3 is anticipated to be closed in 2022. Retirement of the coal-fired units will promote cleaner air quality, Slayton said.

Legal challenges to the project are still pending.

Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation challenged the July 2017 decision by the Corps to issue a permit to allow Dominion to construct the transmission line, as did the National Parks Conservation Association. A federal judge ruled against the groups in late May 2018. The groups are appealing the decision.

A spokesman for the National Trust for Historic Preservation has said a decision is expected in early July.

The National Parks Conservation Association also wants to stop the project on environmental grounds, charging in another court filing that Dominion didn’t make a full consideration of how the project affects wildlife. A spokeswoman for the group has said a ruling is expected in the spring or early summer.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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