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SCC’s Rappahannock River Decision Hailed

For Immediate Release
Save the Rappahannock Coalition
PO Box 671
White Stone, VA 22578

Contact: Carl Smith 703/283-2365

SCC’s Rappahannock River Decision Hailed ( PUE-2016-00021)

The grass-roots organization formed to oppose Dominion’s proposed method for installing new power lines across the Rappahannock praised the State Corporation Commission for heeding its concerns. The Commission held, “underwater construction…satisfies the statutory requirements and best serves the total public interest within the parameters of the statute. “This finding includes consideration of among other things: need; cost; reliability; the environment; scenic assets; historic districts; health and safety of the persons in the area; economic development; local comprehensive plans; proposed method of installation; possible impediments to timely construction; and rights-of-way.”

“This is a great day for Virginia and for all those who value her scenic resources,” said Carl Smith, President of Save the Rappahannock. Both Preservation Virginia and Scenic Virginia, respected state-wide organizations, had testified to the importance of finding an alternative to the towers. Marina owner Bruce Sanders who testified at the SCC hearings, said, “We are relieved that commercial and recreational boaters will not be subjected to the additional risks the new, mid-river towers would have presented.”

Lancaster County Supervisor Jason Bellows noted that “Dominion tried to hide its true objective by mischaracterizing the much taller towers it proposed to erect across the entire breadth of the river and by producing visual simulations from such a great distance and at angles that made it hard to see a 110’ tall bridge, much less their proposed towers.” Dominion initially characterized the project as routine maintenance – which would not be subject to SCC review. The owner of Willaby’s restaurant in White Stone, William Barnhardt, challenged that characterization and the SCC found that Dominion’s project was subject to their review.

The Lancaster Supervisors adopted a resolution opposing the Dominion proposal, as did Middlesex County and the towns or Urbanna, Kilmarnock, and Irvington. Susan Hill, a small business owner in Kilmarnock, Virginia, noted that more than 150 local businesses expressed their hope that an alternative to the towers would be required. “We are very grateful to the SCC for taking the views of small business into account,” Hill said.

The battle to stop Dominion’s towers project began when Urbanna resident Emily Davies noticed a tiny ad in a local paper outlining a vague description of Dominion’s tower proposal. She an objection that forced a hearing before the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. After traveling more than an hour to the sparsely attended hearing she realized the proposal was for something much more intrusive than a simple rebuild of the existing line, which is attached, for much of its length, to the Norris Bridge. Also present at the hearing were Carl Smith and a small band of Lancaster County residents, including Jason Bellows, then Chairman of the Lancaster Board of Supervisors and Frank Pleva, Lancaster County Administrator. At Mr. Bellows’ request, Smith mobilized friends and neighbors and Save the Rappahannock was formed. Smith praised Save the Rappahannock’s attorney, Cliona Robb, of the Richmond firm Christian and Barton for her “magnificent representation.” Smith also thanked Lancaster County and their attorney, James Cornwell, and Michael York, who represented William Barnhardt.

SCC hearings in White Stone and Richmond brought out hundreds of witnesses opposed to Dominion’s plan. Smith said, “These many citizens are the real heroes of this story. The threat to our tourism-based economy was immediately apparent once Dominion’s plans were understood. Dominion sought no community involvement in the project – in fact the drawings they produced minimized the appearance of the towers. Dominion never did ‘get’ that their proposal would also pose a hazard to the many commercial and recreational boaters who use this stretch of our magnificent Rappahannock.”

The Commission announcement is found here.
The SCC Order "on the Line #65 rebuild across the Rappahannock River" is here.