by Megan Schiffres
WHITE STONE—Residents on both sides of the Rappahannock River had a chance to learn more about Dominion Energy’s proposed plans to install transmission lines underneath the river last week.
The utility company invited residents to an open house in both Middlesex and Lancaster counties, where they plan to construct transition stations over the next year. Once constructed, these stations will transition the overhead transmission lines underground and from these stations, horizontal directional drilling will be used to install a new transmission line under the Rappahannock.
“We’re drilling from both sides to platforms in the middle. So there’ll be a drill from the south side over to the platform, a drill from the north side over to the platform and then a water drill from platform to platform,” said project manager Wesley Keck during the informational session on August 21 at the White Stone Town Hall.
The underwater transmission lines will replace the overhead 115 kV lines that were attached to the Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge in 1962. According to Dominion Energy communications consultant Greg Mathe, no disruption of power is expected during the process of this replacement.
The cost of the project will be shared among all Dominion customers, but they do not yet know how much rates will increase as a result of the project, said Mathe.
Dominion determined the existing lines needed to be replaced in 2014, due to safety and operational concerns related to the age of the bridge. In 2015 Dominion filed an application to build 10 transmission towers across the Rappahannock River, but members of the community concerned about the impact that the proposed towers would have on the property value, tourism industry and environment of the Northern Neck filed an injunction against their construction with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC). Last December, the SCC ruled against Dominion’s Energy’s plan to construct independent towers and directed them to install the new transmission line under the river.
Ian Ormesher, a resident of Irvington who became involved in a citizen coalition to prevent the construction of the towers, said at the open house last week that they felt encouraged by how inconspicuous the new plans for underwater transmission lines appeared.
“Putting this underground will add value to the Northern Neck,” Ormesher said. “The view from that bridge we all enjoy is literally unique, is one of the best views in the whole of USA, is outstanding no matter where you go around the world. Driving across that bridge, the view you get from that should take your breath away.”
Permits relating to the project must be approved by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers before it can move forward, said Mathe. Dominion has already obtained approval from the Middlesex planning commission to construct a transition station at the intersection of Greys Point Road and Pinetop Road, Topping. A public hearing on the company’s application for special exception from the Lancaster board of supervisors to build a transition station adjacent to 165 High Bank Road, will be held at 7 p.m. tonight, August 30.
Despite general public support for the underwater transition lines, a few residents will still lose their view of the river and have their property values lessen as a result of the project. Mal Ransone, a Lancaster resident of 65 years whose property connects to the proposed site of the transition station in White Stone, said they might as well put their home of 32 years up for sale.
“It’s going to lessen the value of my house because people are not going to want to look at the sub-station, you know? I don’t even want to look at it,” said Ransone, who worked as a sub-contractor for Dominion. “But I guess I get no choice, because it’s a done deal and I wasn’t notified.”
Ransone said at the open house that he wished he had been notified earlier about the plans to construct a transition station near his home and that he supported the overhead power lines as an alternative to the underwater transmission project.
Dominion is awaiting approval on several permits before they can begin construction, but Mathe said they hope to start building in the fall. Weather permitting, the project is expected to take about 15 months to complete.