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Area power needs could trump view of Antietam battlefield

August 10, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

SHARPSBURG - Antietam National Battlefield lies in a corridor where power lines could be raised to satisfy the mounting electricity needs associated with Western Maryland's population boom.

Julie Ruggiero, a U.S. Department of energy spokeswoman, said the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor surrounding Antietam was just one area the federal government recently identified as a problem region.

She said extending power lines across the battlefield - where 23,110 soldiers were killed, wounded or listed as missing during the Civil War - was far from a sure thing.

"The goal isn't to get a line through (Antietam National Battlefield)," said Ruggiero, adding that state and National Park Service lands cannot be seized without permission.

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Lee Dickinson, special park uses program manager for the National Park Service, said utility companies have to get a permit from the National Park Service before they can run power lines through a national park.

"Them coming to us and saying, 'We're coming through with a power line' is not automatic," she said.

National Park Service officials would consider a request to run the lines through the battlefield, but she said she doubted they would approve it.

As an alternative, the power lines could be constructed on private property around the battlefield, she said.

If that happens, Sharpsburg Councilman Russell Weaver said the lines would create an eyesore.

He said, to his knowledge, the federal government never approached town leaders to discuss the power lines.

"It's really shocking news ... We've spent years and years and years preserving Antietam," he said.

Weaver suggested it might take political pressure from federal legislators to keep the power lines away from the battlefield.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin's office said he would continue to review the issue "as the process moves forward," while the office of his fellow Democrat, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, did not return telephone messages.

Lisa Wright, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th, said the congressman would try to come up with a compromise that would provide electricity and preserve the battlefield.

"He wants to facilitate both goals," Wright said.

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