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Morgan County residents object to newly routed power line

August 15, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. -- More than 250 people - the largest crowd so far - attended a public meeting held Thursday night by Allegheny Power to see where the proposed Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) might be routed through Morgan County.

Allegheny Power is holding public meetings before finalizing the route of the 244-mile-long, 765,000-kilovolt transmission line from southern West Virginia to Maryland.

Four routes in Morgan County are possible. The northern route, which was most protested, would chop off the top of Largent, W.Va., then head to Great Cacapon along Cacapon Mountain parallel to W.Va. 9, said Abby Chapple of Friends of the Cacapon River.

The general consensus of the people who attended the meeting was to use an existing power line and not create new routes.

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"I don't know why we need to deviate from the existing route," said Del. Daryl E. Cowles, R-Morgan. "We are concerned about environmentally sensitive issues, and to cross the top of Cacapon Mountain is a terrible idea."

Only a limited number of people were allowed into the meeting at the Homestead Restaurant while the majority waited in the parking lot outside.

Josh Snell held a placard that read "WV is NOT open for Big Business." Snell said the company should follow the existing path if they have to come through Morgan County.

Laura Steepleton also had a handmade sign. It read "Keep WV Wild & Wonderful No PATH." She said she wants no more power lines in West Virginia that supply power to other states.

"West Virginia is being used and abused for other states' needs," she said.

"Don't tear down more trees and destroy people's property," said Donald Carlisle, another Morgan County resident. "Use the existing lines."

Del. Craig P. Blair, R-Berkeley/Morgan, waited outside with the crowd.

"There are two ways to deal with this," he said. "Go along the existing structure and make sure the power plants operate as cleanly as possible to keep the carbon footprint as small as possible."

Blair said we need to seek more alternative energy sources such as wind generators and solar technology.

"I love wind," he said.

Todd L. Meyers, a spokesman for Allegheny Energy, said people can learn about the project by attending the public meetings, which are being held in the areas that could be affected. Before the Berkeley Springs meeting, the largest number of people to attend was 150 in Martinsburg, W.Va., last week.

Meyers said Morgan County came into the picture in early August. He said the company has been working on routing for the last two months, which is "a fluid and dynamic process."

Morgan County was recently notified that the county was being considered for PATH, Morgan County Commission President Glen R. Stotler said.

"I don't support them coming through Morgan County," Stotler said. "The Cacapon Mountain northern route is totally ridiculous. There is no direct advantage for the new lines to be in Morgan County. If it comes to pass and beyond our control and it comes to Morgan County, I hope they are forced to follow the existing route.

"I believe it's obvious by the people who attended the meeting that Morgan County citizens do not favor them being in Morgan County."

Commissioners Thomas R. Swaim and Brenda J. Hutchinson also attended the meeting and agreed with Stotler.

"We don't want the line to come through Morgan County," Hutchinson said. "If we can't keep it out of the county, the best choice is to run it on the existing line on the southern route.

"Some people are saying they are showing us alternative routes is just smoke and mirrors, so we will be happy when they choose to widen the existing southern route through Morgan County."

Resident Susan Taylor said she felt that the "environment and the viewscape are endangered if this goes through Morgan County."

Taylor said she was very impressed by the turnout.

"It was the place to be on Thursday night for everyone to gather information and voice their concerns," she said.

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