Protect the James is a coalition of like-minded organizations working together to request that the Army Corps of Engineers call a Public Hearing to fully explore all likely impacts of this project. The coalition includes representatives from The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Virginia, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Scenic Virginia, the James River Association, National Parks Conservation Association, the Garden Club of Virginia, the Virginia Conservation Network, the Chesapeake Conservancy, James City County, VA and the Save the James Alliance.
For centuries, the James River has been an iconic symbol of Virginia's and this nation's history. The Powhatan traveled this water highway. The first English explorers glimpsed a world new to them. Historic battles that defined America’s independence and liberty took place here. The James River teemed with sturgeon and oysters. Once diminished by pollution, both are making a comeback. Today, millions of people are attracted to the Historic Triangle and the James River to explore that history and understand its meaning for life today. We must not allow it to be diminished by the construction of 17 high-voltage towers across the river.
Photo of the James River at College Creek is courtesy of Scott Neville / The Washington Post
Dear Mr. Steffey:
We are aware that the Army Corps of Engineers is considering a 404 permit application for this project that, if granted, would allow construction of the Dominion Power Surry-Skiffes Creek 500 kV transmission line across the James River at Williamsburg. Ample evidence has been compiled to demonstrate that there exists viable, robust alternatives to Dominion's currently proposed project. These alternatives provide consumers with access to cost-effective and reliable electricity, while maintaining for them and for others the treasured assets of America's birth that are found in the segment of the James River where this project would be built. Thus, it is my strong belief that:
1. The current plan will harm natural, historic and scenic resources along the James River, including the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Colonial National Historic Parkway, Jamestown Island and Carter's Grove Plantation, thus, negatively impacting the region’s tourism-based economy.
2. An alternative approach is currently available in which the proposed route could be redesigned to follow an existing crossing, or the line could be constructed under the James. This approach would meet the mutual need for electric power, while not harming the historic, natural, scenic and economic resources of this region.
3. Given the undeniable importance of these immense, multifaceted resources, the Army Corps must convene a public hearing so that the facts of this project are fully explore, including viable alternatives.
4. Given the significant negative impacts that issuing this permit will have on historic, natural and scenic resources, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the Army Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement prior to issuing any permit.
5. Consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act should be convened concurrently with the NEPA review process to ensure that concerns and alternatives raised by consulting parties during consultation can be full considered in both review processes.
I ask you, respectfully, to act with the greatest urgency to stop this impending tragedy, a description not overstated, given the recent designation of this stretch of the James as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's “11 Most Endangered Sites in America for 2013” demonstrates. Once constructed, these monolithic towers will blight the view scape for generations.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this critical issue.