Prince william supervisors drop opposition to power line project prince william insidenova.com on q gas station okc

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“Sometimes you can push too far, and this is a case where we got what we wanted,” said At-Large Chairman Corey Stewart, a Republican. “When you’ve achieved victory, stop. Don’t mess it up. We have an opportunity to make sure these power lines are buried and once that’s done, it’s permanent.”

The board unanimously agreed March 13 to end its legal support for two groups seeking to block the project entirely: the Coalition to Protect Prince William County and the Somerset Crossing Homeowners Association. They’ve spent years battling Dominion, over concerns that the power line will harm property values and mar the area’s natural resources, and they currently have a challenge to the project pending before state regulators that could scuttle it before it starts.

Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, said he still wishes the two groups all the best, but he also felt the county couldn’t take the risk of battling the project in its entirety. Schlossberg and her fellow power line opponents are arguing to the State Corporation Commission that Dominion hasn’t proved a clear need for the project among the area’s electric customers — Candland worries that, as western Prince William continues to grow, that argument may get harder to make a decade or two down the line.

Because the legislation only requires Dominion to bury the power line as part of a temporary “pilot program” that lasts through 2020, Candland believes opponents could very well defeat the project now, only to see it return on massive overhead towers years from now.

Del. Danica Roem, D-13th District, is not especially swayed by that argument. She made her opposition to the project in its entirety a centerpiece of her campaign last fall, and even opposed the bill directing Dominion to bury the line over concerns about the nuances of its language.

“I’m not going to tell the Board of County Supervisors how to do its job,” Roem said. “But, until the SCC says they’ve proved an adequate need for it, my view is the transmission line should not exist in the first place. Burying the line was always the least worst option.”

Riley and his family have lived for the last two and a half years in a neighborhood just off Heathcote Boulevard in Haymarket. His house sits about 150 feet from the I-66 sound barrier, and Dominion has proposed a route for the project stretching right along that sound wall.

“I have a swing set for my kids in the backyard, and that probably falls within the right-of-way they’d need,” Riley said. “Just the other day I had 10 kids from the neighborhood playing in our backyard. That element of freedom will go by the wayside. That’s the part that gets me, just the inconvenience of it.”

“These things are very rarely a win for everyone, so we try to take the situation that best overall serves community,” Candland said. “By far, burial impacts the least amount of people. It impacts property values the least, as well as the visual and historic aspects of the area…We need to take advantage of this very unique opportunity to bury these lines.”

Stewart and Candland both stressed just how unusual this sort of concession from Dominion is — the company has fought the prospect of burying the line for years, arguing it will add $100 million to the project cost, but the utility didn’t stand in the way as Del. Tim Hugo, R-40th District, pushed legislation to require that the project is built partially underground.

Regardless of the county’s position on the matter, regulators at the SCC will have the final say on whether the project moves ahead. The power line is set for an April 30 hearing as the SCC evaluates if requisite demand for the project exists — Dominion claims the rapid development in western Prince William will soon strain the area’s electrical grid, while Schlossberg’s group argues a Haymarket data center owned by a subsidiary of the online retail giant Amazon is driving the need for the project.

If the SCC lets Dominion move ahead, spokesman Chuck Penn said the company will file an application to build the line partially underground along I-66 and get the project moving. But there’s no precise timetable for when regulators will issue a decision.