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Proposed power line route through Jefferson Co. meets opposition

November 19, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- An Allegheny Energy official on Wednesday released a map showing a new proposed route for a controversial high-voltage power line through Jefferson County, and opposition to it was immediate.

The proposed route for the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) line would follow an existing power line that enters the western edge of the county near Summit Point and goes straight across the county between Rippon and Charles Town. The existing line then bends north slightly as it goes up Blue Ridge Mountain.

Allegheny Energy spokesman Allen Staggers said Wednesday that the proposed new route was arrived at after previous proposals of running the line through a electrical substation in Bedington in Berkeley County were eliminated.

Possible routes that involved Berkeley County and Washington County, Md., have been eliminated, and now the focus is on Jefferson County, where a battle over the line awaits.

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Herb Snyder, who has been elected to the 16th District seat in the West Virginia Senate that represents Jefferson County, said Wednesday he told state officials in Charleston, W.Va., this week that they can anticipate a fight from Jefferson County residents who are upset about the project.

Keryn Newman, spokeswoman for a citizens group fighting the line, said Wednesday that her organization is strongly opposed to the route through Jefferson County.

Newman, of West Virginia Citizens Against PATH, characterized the line as a "300-mile extension cord" for New Jersey power customers that is not necessary. The project will hurt southern West Virginia by encouraging mountaintop removal in search of coal to generate the electric for the line, and local property owners will be affected by the line, Newman said.

Newman said she had hoped that the map released Wednesday would show an alternative route that would bypass Jefferson County.

"But it appears they are all here," Newman said.

As the line stretches across the county, there are sections where other lines dip away, such as in the area between Charles Town and Rippon.

Staggers said those are likely areas where project designers have identified "constraints," such as houses or historical areas.

Staggers said he did not know what the constraints might be, and residents can get a better idea of route details at an open house that Allegheny Energy is sponsoring Dec. 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Washington High School.

Besides the map that was released Wednesday, Allegheny Energy will have more detailed maps of the route that will be posted on the Web site www.pathtransmission.com, Staggers said.

Those maps will be posted on the Web site by the Dec. 3 open house, Staggers said.

Staggers said earlier this week that the map showing the new proposed route was to be published in local newspapers Wednesday, including The Herald-Mail. The ad was not in The Herald-Mail, and Staggers said he did not know why.

Newman said Summit Point residents are upset about the possibility of the line going through that area, and she believes residents in Keyes Ferry Acres, Harpers Ferry Campsites and Westridge Hills on Blue Ridge Mountain could be heavily affected.

"The people on the Blue Ridge Mountain need to be very concerned," Newman said.

Newman said her organization will hold a meeting Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Summit Point Library to describe the project "from our point of view."

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