In the battle to find an acceptable route for a transmission line, Dominion Virginia Power has found a new possibility: right through Barbara Notar's back yard.
Notar is president of Save the Trail, the grassroots organization that succeeded in getting Dominion to agree not to choose the W&OD Trail as the site for the proposed 230-kilovolt transmission line last fall — a move that would have wiped out the last wooded vestige of the old railroad track. Dominion owns an easement on the trail and already runs high-voltage lines on it east of Leesburg.
NOTAR WAS one of 20 residents south of Route 7 and just west of Leesburg who got a Jan. 19 letter from John Bailey, Dominion's coordinator of siting and permitting. Bailey informed Notar that her property is in one of two additional "study areas" the company is considering for locating the transmission line.
"My reaction when I opened the letter from John Bailey was disbelief," Notar said. "I thought, 'I have worked for 10 months to help preserve a public park, and now this?'"
According to Dominion spokesperson Le-Ha Anderson, when the company looked into locating the line on the south side of Route 7, it discovered it would have to destroy someone's home to make it work.
"We never want to take somebody's house," Anderson said. So the company expanded its study area into Notar's neighborhood.
Six of the residents who got letters are active members of Save the Trail. Notar has considered the possibility that Dominion is trying to put her in an "awkward" position.
"Maybe they think that if my own property and those of my friends and neighbors is threatened, I'll back off the trail," Notar said. "Well, that's not going to happen. Save the Trail is alive and well."
Anderson said the company is planning to submit its application to the State Corporation Commission sometime in March. While Dominion has agreed not to name the W&OD Trail as the preferred route for the line, it is required to include it along with alternatives. The SCC makes the final decision. Dominion has not yet heard from Virginia Department of Transportation about gaining use of Route 7 right-of-way for the power line.
"We've got to work with what we have," Anderson said. "There will always be someone who won't be happy with where the line is."
IN OTHER transmission line news, state Sen. William Mims (R-33) is sponsoring a bill inspired by the struggle between residents and Dominion. The bill would require the SCC to consider locating new power lines underground in counties with populations of more than 225,000 if requested by the locality. If the SCC does not choose the underground option, under the bill, it would be required to provide an explanation why.
Dominion has estimated that an underground line would cost several times the amount of overhead. Anderson said the company is not considering the underground option.