The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorized Dominion Energy to construct enormous electric transmission towers throughout a historic landscape without ever preparing an environmental impact statement. But now we have the opportunity to make things right for Historic Jamestown.
The Army Corps of Engineers has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement with an open comment period ending February 10, 2021, allowing you to speak up for our national parks. Take action now to help protect historic Jamestown!
In March 2019, a federal appeals court ruled that the Army Corps unlawfully issued the permit to Dominion in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws. The Corps began preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in July 2019, and the Draft EIS was finally released in late November 2020. NPCA is actively engaged to ensure our environmental laws are carefully followed and our parks are protected. While the transmission line will remain electrified during the EIS process, NPCA believes the final EIS will require Dominion Energy to build a new project and remove the in-river transmission line, restoring the historic landscape.
In 2020, Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. released a report showing viable alternatives to the transmission line that would provide needed electricity without marring the historic Jamestown landscape. Tell the Corps to protect Jamestown by approving one of the many alternatives available.
Click here for an independent expert’s analysis of the project (PDF, 427KB).
Colonial National Historical Park is where Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indians once lived, and where Captain John Smith and the Virginia Company Settlers landed in 1607 to create the first permanent English settlement in North America. It’s where men, women and children endured brutal winters, starvation, disease and battles to lay the foundation of what would become our nation. For decades, advocates have protected this 50-mile stretch along the James River so that it looked much the same as it did centuries ago.
But visitors today can no longer experience the same evocative views as people have throughout history, because Dominion Energy, one of the largest power companies in the country, built 44 transmission towers, including some as tall as the Statue of Liberty, throughout the landscape. A federal appeals court has ruled that the permit authorizing tower construction was issued illegally — and NPCA maintains that the company should remove them.
‘Not in Accordance with the Law’
NPCA and our allies sued the Army Corps of Engineers in 2017 for granting a permit to allow this poorly sited development without fully assessing its environmental impact. Despite the ongoing litigation, Dominion proceeded to construct the project. The company insisted it could take the towers down if the court ruled against them. And then — that’s just what happened.
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In March 2019, a federal appeals court found that the Army Corps acted illegally when it granted the permit to Dominion without first preparing an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act, calling the move “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” Federal law reasonably requires this thorough environmental review for a development project of this scope, which not only affects the historic landscape but also habitat for endangered species — the federally protected Atlantic sturgeon has made its home in the James River since the time of the dinosaurs and was a major source of food for the original Jamestown settlers.
A proper environmental impact statement that considers all reasonable alternatives will show that better options exist to provide necessary electricity to the region while also respecting this historic landscape’s values. Dominion argued that the proposed project was the only option that met the region’s need for electricity, but based on past reports, that argument was flawed.
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A 2015 report commissioned by NPCA and conducted by Princeton Energy Research International found that the proposed transmission line would serve a much greater capacity than needed to meet the region’s electricity demands. A subsequent report by the National Trust for Historic Preservation outlined a number of viable alternatives to an overhead transmission line across the river. The Army Corps and Dominion rejected each alternative as not feasible or too expensive, estimating that the James River development would cost $178.7 million — the cheapest option.
The company now states that it has spent $435 million on the new transmission line — nearly two and a half times the estimated amount, a far greater cost than more responsible alternatives that were available when it began construction. The company wants the money it has already spent to be considered as a factor in the cost calculation for any future remediation, but this would be deeply unjust. The company could have saved money by doing the right thing all along. Now it must do what is necessary to clean up the mess it has made of this treasured piece of American history.
Worth More Than Money
The national park sites in this region support a $1 billion annual travel and tourism industry that provides jobs and tax revenues to the area. But this fight is about much more than money.
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We’re working to protect and preserve the thrilling story of persistence and ingenuity. We’re fighting for where Captain John Smith traded iron tools, beads and copper with the Powhatan Indians for food and where Pocahontas, the favored daughter of Chief Powhatan, married tobacco grower John Rolfe in 1614. The first representative assembly in the colonies gathered in the Jamestown church in 1619 — the beginning of our American democracy. British, Revolutionary, Union and Confederate soldiers were here, too. This is sacred ground.
That’s why it’s critical to speak up for historic Jamestown. This is about a place that belongs to all Americans, not just to one private company. We cannot allow one of America’s most historic places to be permanently damaged when readily available alternatives exist.
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