Dominion Power is leaving a great many residents around James City County and Lancaster County furious with their proposed above ground power line proposals across the James and Rappahannock Rivers respectively. The essential controversy is between two possible ways of getting power lines across a river. The first and least expensive option is to run giant towers and lines about the water, ruining the landscape for tourists and locals. The second and more expensive option is to run these power lines underneath the river. While it is necessary for Dominion Power to get these extra lines across these rivers to maintain quality of service for their customers, one does have to wonder, regardless of cost, why they would not preserve the appearance of their natural resources when it is within their power to do so.
Opponents of the towers have accused Dominion of inflating estimated costs for an underground line. According to Lancaster County supervisor Jason Bellows, they got their estimate of $225 million off a fact sheet from James City County for the York River crossing. It also noted the actual costs for the underground line were significantly less at $75 million.
“I don’t know where they got that estimate,” said Krek. “We never did a detailed estimate. The final costs were about $85 million.”
Dominion estimated a cost of $10 million for the Rappahannock River towers when they applied for a permit from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. They later revised the estimate to $30 million. Southside Sentinel
It may be impossible to prove whether or not Dominion is overestimating the cost of underground lines. Assuming that is the case, whatever Dominion claims the cost will be is what these counties will have to deal with if they want to strike a compromise. I am completely opposed to requiring companies to operate at a lose while they provide a valuable service to their customers, but there must be some room for a deal.
This picture is what the Rappahannock Power Lines would look like constructed above ground. It isn’t pretty. I can understand Dominion Power preferring to construct necessary lines at a minimal cost, but the ugliness of it all may have added costs for local counties if tourists decide these eye-sores are a cause to spend their dollars elsewhere.
At the end of the day, a bargain ought to be struck, and James City County and Lancaster County should find a way to pay for underground lines in order to preserve their landscape. I am unsure of all the legal and financial issues involved, but I find it difficult to believe that there is no room for agreement. The residents of James City County and Lancaster County absolutely do not want these above ground lines and it is not as if they could choose a different power supplier in protest of Dominion’s decisions here. These projects should be put on hold until a workable alternative amenable to all parties can be established.
Article written by: Steven Brodie Tucker