The Tennessee Valley Authority and Georgetown property owners have agreed to a plan to relocate a proposed transmission line to protect Native American artifacts, allowing TVA to move forward with the utility’s new Systems Operations Center (Project Viper) in Meigs County.
The compromise comes 14 months after TVA announced the relocation of the power control center from downtown Chattanooga to the Georgetown community in August 2018. Property owners raised objections to the route chosen by TVA. In February 2019, TVA and property owner Greg Vital identified cultural resources on the proposed route, which TVA and Mr. Vital independently studied.
As a result, the two parties worked to find an acceptable alternative for the final location of the one-mile transmission line.
““We all benefit when we respect our history and the land,” said Mr. Vital. ”The property owners never opposed the TVA project, and we are pleased to be close to a final compromise moving the project forward. It is very important that we preserve the Native American history discovered on the property and find ways to protect the land.”
Located on 167 acres, the approximately 180,000-square-foot center will house TVA’s new energy management system that works with smart technology, to help lower cost and increase the region’s electric reliability, it was stated. One of the facility’s additional security features includes electro-magnetic pulse protection.
“We appreciate the efforts of Mr. Vital and other important stakeholders,” said Clayton Clem, vice president for strategic transmission projects, “and we have a proposal that respects the resources and allows the development of this new center in Meigs County to proceed.”
In addition to Mr. Vital and the other property owners, Mr. Clem said TVA worked within Section 106 Consultation with the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office and federally recognized Native American tribes. He said the project "is a critical investment for the entire Tennessee Valley and one of the biggest technological upgrades in TVA history.”
Relocating the operations center in Georgetown is part of a $2.2 billion plan to upgrade transmission assets and one of the biggest technological upgrades in TVA history . Mr.. Vital said the project can be important to the future of the rural area and hopes TVA will continually engage the citizens as the project proceeds toward its scheduled completion in 2023.
“This is a monumental project for the Georgetown community and for Meigs County,” said Mr. Vital, a local businessman active in land conservation and preserving Native American history. “We look forward to TVA engaging the citizens as the project moves forward.”
TVA is now in the process of public comment on the draft environmental assessment that considers the potential environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the Operations Center, transmission line and new substation.
The public has 30 days to review and comment on the draft environmental assessment. Details on the project can be reviewed at www.tva.com/nepa. Public comments are due to TVA by Nov. 28.
TVA officials said they had identified a preferred route for the new transmission line.
Officials said, "The selected route is expected to have the least impact on the area, based on public input from the open house and additional evaluation of other factors, including social, environmental and engineering impacts. A National Environmental Policy Act review is also pending. The review will consider potential environmental impacts of the construction and operation of transmission lines, Gunstocker Creek substation and the operations center.
"The project will require new right of way. TVA is continually working with area stakeholders during the course of the project. TVA will meet with property owners along the proposed right of way to obtain easements for construction, operation and maintenance of the line. Property owners would still own the property and be compensated for the easements at fair market value.
The proposal includes about 5.25 miles of double-circuit transmission line to provide power to TVA’s proposed Gunstocker Creek 161-kV substation. Of this, about 4.25 miles is existing right of way that will be upgraded with one mile of new right of way added.
The proposed power line would begin at TVA’s Sequoyah Nuclear Plant-Hiwassee No. 1 161-kV transmission line at a point just northwest of the Hopewell, Tennessee 161-kV Metering Station near the intersection of Rabbit Valley Road Northwest and State Highway 60 (Georgetown Pike) northwest of Cleveland, Tn.
The new line would extend northwest for about 5.25 miles (through portions of Bradley, Hamilton, and Meigs Counties) to the proposed Gunstocker Creek 161-kV substation northeast of the intersection of State Highways 58 and 60 in Meigs County.
The new line would be built using double-circuit, steel poles centered on new and existing 100-foot-wide right of way.
TVA is expected to begin easement surveys in fall 2020 and start acquiring easements soon after. Construction of the new operations center is scheduled to begin in spring 2020 and be completed in fall 2023.
Comments on the draft EA may be submitted through Nov. 29, online at www.tva.com/nepa, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in writing to Anita Masters, NEPA Specialist, 1101 Market Street, BR 2C-C, Chattanooga, Tn. 37402.
Comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the project administrative record and will be available for public inspection.