Power Company Ordered to Put Transmission Line Under, Not Over, Rappahannock River

It's being hailed as a victory, for a grassroots group that has been fighting Dominion Energy for almost two years.

State regulators in Virginia have ordered Dominion to put a new transmission line under the Rappahannock River, instead of running the line the entire way across the river on ten pilings with metal structures sticking high into the air.

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Dominion had proposed building 1.9 miles' worth of line 100 feet away from the Norris Bridge. Each concrete piling would hold a galvanized "H frame" structure that would stretch up to 173 feet in the air.

Dominion said the overhead plan would be most cost-effective. In its initial proposal in February 2016, the company estimated the cost of the overhead construction at $26.3 million, and the cost of an underground line at $83.6 million.

Local groups of boaters, business owners, and residents argued that the overhead structures would be navigation hazards for boats and would ruin waterfront views.

On Thursday the State Coroporation Commission held that, "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.

The owner of Rappahannock Yachts, Bruce Sander,  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.”

The new underwater line will still run near Norris Bridge between Grey's Point and White Stone.

Megan Viviano