January 26, 2016
Colonel Jason E. Kelly, Commander
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District
803 Front Street
Norfolk, VA 23510-1096
Subject: Dominion Power Surry-Skiffes Creek-Whealton Transmission Line Project
Dear Colonel Kelly:
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition) joins the tens of thousands of American citizens and professional and advocacy organizations across our nation voicing unambiguous opposition to the proposed Dominion Virginia Power Surry-Skiffes Creek-Whealton Transmission Line Project across the James River in Tidewater, Virginia. The Coalition is a 1,100 member, non-profit organization composed entirely of retired, former, and current U.S. National Park Service (NPS) employees, who collectively represent nearly 30,000 years of professional stewardship experience in protecting America’s most precious and important natural and historic places. We count among our membership former Presidentially-appointed NPS directors, park superintendents, park rangers, law enforcement personnel, and nationally and internationally recognized subject-matter experts in American history and prehistory as well as natural resource conservation.
The Surry-Skiffes Creek-Whealton Transmission Line Project is an idea that should have never been proposed nor reached the stage of consideration where we now find it. We recognize and respect the need for providing increased and more cost-effective electricity for our fellow citizens. But this must not be done at so egregious a cost to one of our nation’s most important and precious historic places – Jamestown Island. The site of the 1607, first-permanent English Settlement in the New World ranks with a rare assemblage of America’s most significant historic sites, which include The Alamo, Independence Hall, Mt. Vernon, Gettysburg, Monticello, and Plymouth Rock.
First designated a National Monument by President Hoover in 1930 and later added to the National Park System by act of Congress in 1936, Jamestown Island’s setting remains virtually unchanged since the 17th century. Today, visitors may stand on the island and look out on the same landscape those intrepid settlers saw over 400 years ago. Please, do not deny that experience to generations of Americans yet to come. Seventeen transmission towers, as tall as the Statue of Liberty and covered with blinking red lights, crossing the James River nearby is an appalling idea. The impacts would be too great.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, itself a venerable American institution dating back to 1775, has a higher calling and responsibility to America, its history, and future generations than merely considerations of project cost, timing, and feasibility. The Coalition urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny the permit for the proposed overhead power lines and to require Dominion Virginia Power to produce options less destructive of our nation’s heritage. Please, do not let this happen on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ watch.
Thank you for your consideration of this very serious matter.
Maureen Finnerty, Chair
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
cc: Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Department of Defense