Dominion transmission line green-lighted; group files suit

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — Preservation groups are taking the fight against a new transmission line to the courtroom. The Dominion Energy Skiffe’s Creek Transmission Line over the James River got the green light this week.

Dominion said the transmission line will solve a potential electricity problem in the future. Preservation groups argue it will ruin a historic, scenic view.

Along the shores of the James River, Jim Zinn said he gets to look at a piece of history every day.

“As best we can relate, [this is] where Captain John Smith and three ships that came to the United States in 1607 that led to our founding, traveled,” Zinn said looking across the river.

For the last few years, he and preservation groups have fought plans that would mar that view: A high-powered energy line.

“We would actually have 17 towers we’d be looking at if the power lines were built,” he said.

On the other side, Dominion Energy has argued they need to pull power across the river. When the Yorktown coal plant was shuttered, Dominion Energy said they lost a source of power to the Peninsula. But this new line would provide reliable energy into the future.

Spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley-Harris said progress and preservation can go hand in hand.

“This line will not be visible from Colonial Williamsburg, it will not be visible from the Jamestown Settlement, or most of the historic sights on the Peninsula,” she explained.

This week, Dominion Energy got the approval from James City County for a switching station on Skiffe’s Creek. It is the final piece before the go-ahead.

“We are very pleased that they approved the permit because it is integral to the project that we need,” Billingsley-Harris said.

The next day, in federal court, the National Parks Conservation Association mounted a last effort to stop it: A lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The Army stopped short of doing what was often asked of them, which was full environmental impact study,” Zinn said.

In the lawsuit, they claim the Army Corps of Engineers instead did an environmental assessment, critics argue that’s not enough. Regardless, Dominion has plans to break ground in August.

“We are just confident that the Army Corps of Engineers has done a thorough job over the last four years of looking into this issue and making the right decision,” Billingsley-Harris said.

The final argument in court: Reliable energy for the future or a disruption of the past?