Virginia’s James River—“America’s Founding River”—Must be Protected, Not Degraded

James River | Dorothy Canter

American Rivers calls for in-depth environmental study of proposed Dominion transmission line project.

Statement of Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers

Contact: Amy Kober, 503-708-1145

(Washington, DC) – American Rivers urged the Army Corps of Engineers today to conduct a full Environmental Impact Study to assess the impacts of Dominion Virginia Power’s proposal to construct a high voltage aerial electrical transmission line across Virginia’s James River.

Calling it “America’s Founding River,” the national conservation organization pointed to the many scenic, historic and cultural values of the James. The river is also critical habitat for Atlantic sturgeon, a species that has existed for 120 million years. Constructing the transmission line will have significant impact on the species’ habitat.

The proposed Surry-Skiffes Creek – Whealton project includes 17 high-voltage towers, nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty, that would cross directly through one of our nation’s most historically significant river landscapes, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail – the only river segment in the state recognized by the Virginia General Assembly as a “Historic River.”

The stretch of the James that would be impacted by the project is listed in the Nationwide Rivers Inventory; it has been judged to have “outstandingly remarkable” historical values of more than local or regional significance.

“Sustainable power production and transmission are critical needs, but it’s important we look at alternatives to this plan that could serve the region’s evolving needs while preserving the character and values of the James River,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers.

“The public is deeply connected to this area and the river due to its historical significance and aesthetic beauty. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018, interest will only increase,” said Irvin.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement prior to issuing any permit for a project such as this with potentially significant negative impacts. To date, 30 conservation organizations have called for the Corps to require Dominion to perform this study before making a permit decision.

“We need to work together to provide alternative solutions that would not endanger the Commonwealth’s priceless heritage and ‘America’s Founding River,’” Irvin said.