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Jefferson, Berkeley counties oppose power-line routes

October 03, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County officials decided Thursday to send a letter to state authorities raising concerns about a proposed new high-voltage power line after they learned a proposed route for the line passes directly over the site of a proposed elementary school off Job Corps Road.

John Norman, coordinator of construction for Jefferson County Schools, told the Jefferson County Commission that one of the proposed routes for the line would pass over the site that is slated for a $10 million elementary school by 2010.

The commissioners have heard from the public about how the proposed line routes could affect subdivisions like Leisure Acres and Colonial Hills in the Shepherdstown, W.Va., area.

The line could result in the loss of properties in 16 subdivisions, the commissioners said in a letter they decided to send to the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

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The commissioners also said the line could endanger properties on the National Register of Historic Places and trespass on properties protected by federally funded farmland protection programs.

In the letter, the commissioners urge the Public Service Commission, which controls utility companies in the state, "to speak in defense of our adversely affected residents and businesses" and they ask officials to explore alternatives to the project.

Commissioner Dale Manuel said he believes the letter will be sent to Gov. Joe Manchin.

Allegheny Energy spokesman Allen Staggers said Thursday he did not know if the power company was aware one of the proposed lines passes over the school site. He said Allegheny Energy officials realize people have concerns about the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), but he emphasized that no decision has been made on a path for the line.

Staggers said there are "more potential routes than what will be picked."

He said Allegheny Energy plans to submit a proposal for the project to the PSC possibly in December and that plan will have a proposed route.

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.

Also Thursday, the Berkeley County Commission agreed to draft a resolution that states its opposition to PATH after being presented a petition of hundreds of signatures.

A large group of concerned residents voiced their concerns at the commission meeting about the utility line project, noting the potentially millions lost in property values and adverse health impacts.

"We're against PATH in Berkeley County ... because of the destruction it's going to do to existing homes," Commissioner Ronald K. Collins said after the meeting.

Collins, however, conceded that if the federal government is backing the project, it would be difficult to stop.

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