Now the National Trust for Historic Preservation agrees. Dominion Virginia Power’s plan to erect a $155 million, 550-kilovolt power line across the James River just east of the Colonial Jamestown settlement would “compromise scenic integrity of historic cultural areas surrounding the river.”
The line would involve building a number of steel towers, some nearly 300 feet tall, from Dominion’s Surry Nuclear Power Station on the south side of the James to a switching station near Interstate 64 on the heavily populated peninsula.
The power towers and lines would turn the peaceful, bucolic look of Colonial Virginia into something very industrial age, suggesting a set from the 1950s science fiction film “War of the Worlds.” Dominion says building the line is the cheapest and easiest option.
What’s curious is why Dominion says it needs the line and that reason is very much 21st century. Dominion will be short electricity in its Hampton Roads and Peninsula markets, in part because it is shutting down some of its dirty coal-fired operations in Chesapeake and Yorktown and needs to make up the power.
The Yorktown Power station was built in 1957 and the utility plans on shuttering two coal units, claiming it isn’t worth installing environmental controls required by tighter rules for older coal plants ordered by the Obama administration.
Dominion says that it has enough energy form its Surry nuclear plant, whose round, twin containment domes peep out from the trees from the vantage point of the Jamestown Island park, where the English landed in 1607. The park is a major tourist destination.
The problem is getting the power across the river. Dominion has claimed that it can’t move the lines farther down the river because they would interfere with the flight paths to a nearby Army air base. Putting them underwater isn’t feasible and would be expensive.
The issue has come up before, but the involvement of the National Trust, a high-profile Washington nonprofit, raises the stakes.