Residents have to wait to learn power line route

August 07, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Melanie Hodge is one of thousands of people in three states who are about to endure a less than pleasant experience of limbo with a proposed power line project stretching about 300 miles from St. Albans, W.Va., to Kemptown, Md. in Frederick County.

"One of the proposed lines is within 1,500 (to 2,000 feet) of my property," Hodge said Wednesday in Martinsburg at the 11th "open house" in West Virginia hosted by the proponents of the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH).

A joint venture of American Electric Power and Allegheny Energy, the new high-voltage interstate transmission line is needed to avoid overloading the Mid-Atlantic region's power grid, officials have said. That could happen as early as 2012 without improvements.

Though pleased with the open house, Hodge and other residents are less than thrilled about the prospect of a power line running through or within view of their property. And now they will have to wait to learn the route ultimately chosen in the months ahead.


"We already have one of these about four miles from where we live (in Jones Spring)," Hodge said pointing to a photograph of a power line and the swath of clear cut land straddling it on display at the Comfort Inn on Wednesday evening.

Hodge and her husband just purchased their home in October 2007, she said.

Allegheny Energy corporate communications manager Allen Staggers expects an application, including the companies' preferred route to be submitted for West Virginia regulatory approval around Dec. 1, 2008.

Like highway construction, the power line route will try to avoid historic, cultural and environmental resources, Staggers said.

For this project, that includes navigating transmission lines across the C&O Canal, The Appalachian Trail and around a number of Civil War sites, notably the Antietam and South Mountain battlefields.

"Several of these routes we are looking at parallel existing transmission lines," Staggers said of the overall scope of the project.

The new line will require a 200-foot buffer and the existing path of other power lines can not be used in every instance, Staggers said.

Already pinched by housing market downturn, developers who have property along the possible routes of the power line likely will have to wait and see if their investment is affected.

An engineer who attended the open house on behalf of the developer of The Lakes of Martinsburg said one of the proposed power line routes bumps up against part of the yet-to-be completed housing project north of Martinsburg.

"It's a huge state of limbo" for the developer, said project engineer Jason P. Gerhart.

Open houses

All "open house" events are scheduled to be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Aug. 7: Frederick County, Va. - Gainesboro Elementary School

Aug. 11: Harpers Ferry, W.Va. - Quality Hotel & Conference Center

Aug. 11: Moorefield, WV. South Branch Inn

Aug. 12: Frederick, Md. - Holiday Inn Conference Center

Aug. 13: Boonsboro - American Legion Post 10

Aug. 14: Lovettsville, Va. - Lovettsville Elementary School

More information about the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) is available on the Internet at

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