Dominion Energy said Wednesday that it will probably seek permission to build a controversial power line in Northern Virginia along Interstate 66 instead of through a community occupied by descendants of a former slave — an option that would spare residents on Carver Road but that could affect property values for several hundred other homeowners.
In a legal brief filed with the State Corporation Commission, the utility said it appears that Prince William County’s Board of County Supervisors will block construction along Carver Road by refusing to grant Dominion permission to use a parcel of county-owned land the company needs for a project to accommodate a computer data center in the Haymarket area.
Greg Mathe, a company spokesman, said Dominion considers building the 230,000-volt power lines above Interstate 66 as the next best option given the relatively few impacts to the surrounding environment and the convenience of building along an existing highway.
But, Mathe said, the company is still reviewing all options, including Carver Road, where the descendants of Livinia Blackburn Johnson have lived for at least 118 years.
“We continue to evaluate all the easements needed for approval along that route and will work with the county on anything we may need from them,” Mathe said.
But in an often heated dispute over whether the power lines are even needed to serve the proposed data center and a steadily growing portion of western Prince William County, cooperation from county officials is unlikely.
Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chair of the county board, cheered the idea of moving away from Carver Road and said he’d oppose any request for use of county land.
Stewart said the county will also fight plans to build along I-66 that don’t include partially burying the lines — a “hybrid route” option estimated to cost $167 million that the state commission rejected as too expensive.
Dominion estimates that building above I-66 would cost about $51 million, though the state commission previously rejected that idea because it would affect too many surrounding homeowners.
“There’s only one acceptable route, and that’s the hybrid route,” said Stewart, who earlier this year engineered the defeat of another route preferred by Dominion that would have placed the power lines along a freight railroad line near a development of 528 homes opposed to the idea.
In Wednesday’s filing, Dominion contested assertions from area homeowners that the lines aren’t needed, pointing to plans for a 490-home development in Gainesville as proof that the area is consuming more electricity.
The filing includes a letter from an attorney representing VAData, owner of the data center site, saying the company is eager to finish all three warehouse-size buildings planned for the site.
The letter from T. Preston Lloyd Jr. also emphasized that VAData has no say in how the power it needs is provided.
“We have consistently reiterated that how Dominion will service the Haymarket area is Dominion’s decision (not the Company’s),” Lloyd’s letter said. (VAData is a subsidiary of Amazon.com, whose founder and chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, is the owner of The Washington Post.)
With a final outcome to the controversy that began in 2014 still seemingly far off, residents along Carver Road greeted the possibility that their community may be spared with a mixture of hope and disbelief.
The idea of being uprooted has caused anxiety in the community of mostly elderly residents, said Nathan Grayson, one of Johnson’s descendants.
“I’m kind of neutral on this because I don’t trust them,” Grayson said about Dominion. “We’d like all this to be over.”