Utility Seeks Power Line Upgrade in National Park

Published May 1, 2014

Utility Seeks Transmission Line Upgrade on National Park Land near Waynesboro, VA ~ Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Utility Seeks Transmission Line Upgrade on National Park Land near Waynesboro, VA ~ Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The National Park Service protects many of America's most valued resources, including the Appalachian Trail.

Nobody wants to see power lines abusing the scenery in our parks.

Everybody wants to have electrical power on demand in towns all around America's parks.

Conflict is inevitable.

For example, Dominion Virginia Power (DVP) has requested permits from the NPS to upgrade its existing transmission facilities across approximately 3,000 feet of NPS lands inside the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail near Waynesboro, Virginia.

The proposed project, which is a part of the company's larger effort to upgrade the entire 45 miles of its electrical transmission line between Dooms and Bremo, Virginia, would replace an existing 115-kilovolt (kV) line and associated structures with a new 230-kV line and structures, within the existing right-of-way (ROW).

DVP needs permission from the NPS to construct the part of this line that lies on federal lands managed by the NPS. As such, the NPS is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act to analyze the impacts to the environment and park resources that might occur as a result of this portion of the line's upgrade.

DVP identified the need to upgrade its 115-kV transmission facilities between Dooms and Bremo (the "Dooms-Bremo" line) as part of its regional transmission planning process. According to DVP, demand on the line is increasing, and the upgrade is needed to maintain reliable electrical service and avoid violations of the National Electric Reliability Commission (NERC) standards. The line upgrade is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2014.

The existing Dooms-Bremo line currently crosses two units of the NPS system: Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. DVP (the applicant) has applied for permits from the NPS to authorize construction and use of park lands for installing the new facilities.

A construction permit is needed to authorize construction activities that would occur within the parks as part of the project. A ROW permit to operate and maintain the line is needed for the portion of the line that crosses Shenandoah National Park because the applicant does not own an easement there, so the existing authorization would need to be changed to describe the new facilities.

Therefore, the federal action under consideration in the EA is deciding whether and under what conditions to issue DVP the requested permits. The analysis in the EA will focus on the area where the transmission line crosses NPS land. This will help the NPS to determine the significance of any environmental effects and to examine reasonable alternatives and modifications to assist in meeting its NPS resource management objectives.

At this point, the EA will analyze two alternatives: build (action) and no build (no action).

The EA will discuss potential impacts and several topics including:

  • biotic communities, including vegetation, wildlife, and wildlife habitat
  • visitor use and experience
  • soundscapes
  • scenic resources
  • cultural landscapes & historic districts

You are invited to submit your comments on this project by May 30, 2014. Click on the link below to read all about this issue.

Click Here for Project Documents from the National Park Service

NPS Contact

Morgan McCosh Elmer, Project Manager
NPS Denver Service Center - Planning
12795 W Alameda Pkwy
PO Box 25287
Denver CO 80225

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About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.