Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Towers to Rise near Historic Jamestown: $90M in Payouts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Towers to Rise near Historic Jamestown: $90M in Payouts

Article excerpt

NORFOLK, Va. * A big change is looming on the horizon near Jamestown Island, site of Britain's first permanent settlement in North America: 17 transmission towers four nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty are set to rise to help meet Virginia's growing energy appetite.

But not everyone is electrified by the prospect, never mind the $90 million the utility is spreading around to blunt the impact on this tourist region steeped in early American history.

The project calls for stringing power lines across the muddy James River, an undertaking the utility says is vital to maintaining the region's power supply as aging coal-fired plants are mothballed. Richmond-based Dominion Energy already has begun the federally required payouts. And the so-called mitigation funding is providing rare windfalls to local groups in an era of dwindling public dollars for preservation efforts.

Groups receiving the money have expressed gratitude, though some remain opposed to the towers.

"It was not our intent to benefit. We would rather not have the project," said Robert Gray, chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which received $4.5 million in payments. "Once those towers go up, the cultural landscape is ruined."

The project could take nearly two years to complete. Work has already begun on foundations for the towers.

Eventually, the power lines are to cross a 4-mile stretch of the broad James River within view of the eastern tip of Jamestown Island, although not its historic fort. To accommodate river barge traffic, four of the towers are to rise as high as 295 feet just shy of Lady Liberty's 305-foot height from the pedestal's ground level to the torch.

More than 400 years ago, Britain established Jamestown, aided by Capt. John Smith, a colorful adventurer and explorer who is part of the tourist draw here.

Because power lines would cut through areas with historical significance, the federal government required the mitigation funding by Dominion, which is flowing through an array of state agencies and nonprofit foundations. …

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