Proposed Duke transmission line sparks controversy

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. — A proposed 45-mile transmission line that would cut through the mountains and foothills of the Carolinas is drawing harsh criticism from area residents, local leaders and environmental groups.

Duke Energy says forty-four different routes are being considered to connect a new substation in Campobello to a new natural gas plant at Lake Julian, near Asheville.

According to Duke officials, the more than 200 towers with an average height of around 140' are needed to meet the increasing demand for power in western North Carolina, and they have said they will speed up the route location announcement date, moving it from January 2016 to October 2015.

The proposed, 150'-wide routes include large portions of northern Greenville County, northern Spartanburg County, southern Polk County and Henderson County. Although some of the proposed routes make use of existing Duke transmission lines, others would require the acquisition of new rights of way through forested areas, near the watershed, and/or adjacent to homes, farms, and orchards.

One proposed route for a new Duke Energy transmission line that would help supply power to western North Carolina would cut across Greenville County, traversing along Scenic Highway 11 before claiming a path through the mountains of the Upstate. (Map: Duke Energy)

Last week, Grenville County Councilman Joe Dill introduced a resolution opposing the proposed location through the county. Passed unanimously, the resolution encourages the energy behemoth to consider alternatives to the new lines, including using existing lines and right of ways.

Councilmembers wrote that Duke should "carefully consider the environmental and aesthetic impact of this extraordinary area before deciding on a course of action."

"We're not going to sit idly by and let Duke destroy our green spaces," Dill told the Travelers Rest Tribune. "We don't want to wake up one morning to find [the Public Service Commission] has let them run these lines down Highway 11."

In a recent OpEd in the Greenville Business Journal, conservation group Upstate Forever's Executive Director Brad Wyche wrote that the area’s economic well-being is inextricably tied to its stunning natural beauty and abundant green spaces.

"[We] are honored to protect several properties in the area with conservation agreements, but unfortunately these agreements cannot legally stop a utility from condemning rights-of-way for transmission lines," Wyche wrote.

The Public Service Commission will hold a public hearing at Landrum High School on Thurs., Aug. 27 beginning at 6 p.m.

Duke Energy's comment deadline is Aug. 31.

1. Click here to go to Duke’s website.

2. Click "Enter" in the right hand corner of the big blue box that will appear.

3. Click “Submit a Comment” along the top center of the page.

4. Register by entering your contact information and choosing a user name and password.

5. Greenville County contains proposed "Segment 4" and "Segment 3B".