The bright side of darker power lines

Lattice structures for proposed power lines are a rusted gold color. This one faces east on Skyline Drive. Courtesy Dominion Lattice structures for proposed power lines are a rusted gold color. This one faces east on Skyline Drive. Courtesy Dominion

Last August, locals protested Dominion Virginia Power’s plans to rebuild area transmission lines with a much brighter material than their darker predecessors. Now a state commission has ruled that the power company must chemically darken its structures, and the group of people that worried new lines would stick out like a sore thumb is rejoicing.

Supervisor Ann Mallek says she has always supported upgrading the transmission lines in the Cunningham-Dooms 500kV power line rebuild, but she wanted county residents, landowners and visitors to have the best option available.

“Darkening the towers seemed to be a reasonable and inexpensive method to accomplish this goal,” she says. “The dozens of speakers at the [State Corporation Commission] hearing last year agreed [and] made good points, yet [Dominion] was unwilling to comply.”

Mallek says the SCC, in its order to darken the towers, has shown respect for the county’s comprehensive plan, tourism and financial success, and “the quality of life in Albemarle.”

Dominion workers will now chemically dull the galvanized steel lattice structures before they rebuild the transmission lines, according to Greg Mathe, a company spokesperson.

Kristopher Baumann, who owns a farm in Rockbridge County, has a pending lawsuit against Dominion for allegedly misrepresenting the color and size of power lines in a similar rebuild in his area.

“People want to know why the state government allowed this and why wasn’t anyone protecting the public and the land?” says Baumann. “We now know that Dominion misrepresented its plan to various state agencies, but at the end of the day, it should have been the SCC that stopped Dominion. In the Albemarle case, the SCC paid attention.”

Adds Baumann, “We can only hope that this will be the new normal for the SCC in the future and that utility companies will have to comply with the law and regulations, and design facilities in a manner that causes the least environmental and scenic harm. The big question is why doesn’t Dominion just start doing the right thing?”

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