Judge Says Virginia Transmission Line Project Won’t Harm Historic Sites

(CN) – A federal judge on Friday ruled the construction of more a dozen mammoth towers to carry power transmission lines over Virginia’s James River won’t disrupt anyone’s view or diminish enjoyment of nearby historical sites.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lambert’s 11-page ruling quashed an effort by the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and others to block construction of the towers and an electrical switching station at Skiffes Creek near Jamestown, Virginia.

the Surry-Skiffes Creek-Whealton Project is being undertaken by the Virginia Electric and Power Company.

As recounted in the ruling, the utility sought approval for the project in 2013, and the Army Corps of Engineer issued a public notice a year later initiated the permitting process, solicited public comment, and noted that a preliminary review indicated an Environmental Impact Survey would not be needed.

The Corps approved the project in May 2017, and the utility began preliminary work on the project last summer.

But the plaintiffs, which also include the Association for the Preservation of the Virginia Antiquities, insisted that the “intrusion of mammoth towers of modernity [would] instantly and forever after alter the space, the peace and the reflection of this place in history,” the ruling said.

Judge Lamberth did not agree and said the so-called harm to the plaintiffs didn’t warrant injunctive relief. In late September, Builders crews began installing  foundation structure that extend seven feet above water.

“The foundations, spread across an approximately four mile stretch of the river, will extend a mere seven feet above the river – roughly the height of a person standing on a boat,” Judge Lamberth wrote. “The court is hard pressed to see, nor have plaintiffs established, how that will result in the ‘great’ harm necessary to warrant a preliminary injunction.”

It is also unclear if the towers will even be visible from other historical sites, the judge noted.

Claims of possible damage to the plaintiff’s respective tourism industries because of the project are also tenuous, he said.

“Perhaps visitors won’t even notice the construction and if they do perhaps it will not deter them from future visits,” Lamberth wrote. “Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing … irreparable injury must be likely, not merely speculative.”

In a statement, Theresa Pierno, president for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the organization is disappointed the court’s decision, “but will continue to fight in court to protect Jamestown and nearby national park sites like the Colonial National Historical Park from being destroyed by this unnecessary development.”

“This project will rob future generations from experiencing this history as we all have, until now,” Pierno said.

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