If you go

The hearing on a proposed new electric transmission line to provide more reliable power service to McClellanville will be 5-8 p.m. June 3 at St. James Santee Elementary School, 8900 U.S. Highway 17, McClellanville. Staff from the Rural Utilities Service, Central Electric Cooperative and other agencies will be available to answer questions.

A 45-day public comment period will begin May 9. Written comments may be submitted to Lauren McGee Rayburn, Environmental Scientist, Rural Utilities Service, 84 Coxe Ave., Suite 1E, Asheville, N.C. 28801; by email to Lauren.McGee@wdc.usda.gov, or by fax to 202-690-0649. Oral comments will be taken during the public hearing.

To view the draft environmental impact statement online, go to http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UWP-Central-Electric-Power-Cooperative.html. Copies of the statement are also available at Mount Pleasant Regional Library, McClellanville Library, Georgetown County Library Main Branch, and Berkeley Electric Cooperative's Awendaw District Office.

McClellanville area residents will get a chance to see the latest proposal to bring more reliable power service to Berkeley Electric Cooperative customers during a public hearing June 3.

The Rural Utilities Service has issued its 445-page environmental impact statement for Central Electric Cooperative's proposed 115-kilovolt transmission line from Winyah Bay in Georgetown through the Francis Marion National Forest to McClellanville.

The document discusses construction, operation and maintenance of the new 15- to 20-mile line, one new substation, temporary construction roads, river crossings, staging sites and other facilities.

Alternative routes with a 75-foot-wide right of way being considered would deliver power from state-owned utility Santee Cooper's Winyah power generating station across the Santee River and through up to 11 acres of national forest to a new substation near McClellanville.

Berkeley Electric Cooperative, which gets its power through a contract with Central Electric Cooperative from electricity generally provided by Santee Cooper, currently takes electric service from a pole-mounted metering point near McClellanville. The metering point is on a 22-mile-long, 25-kilovolt distribution line owned and operated by South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. From the metering point, Berkeley Electric's distribution line runs another 18 miles. Together, the two utilities' lines run 40 miles, providing service to 1,100 Berkeley Electric customers from Awendaw to outlying areas of McClellanville. The town is served by SCE&G.

Because they are at the end of the line, McClellanville area residents often suffer from unreliable power service and frequent outages during rainstorms or if limbs brush against the distribution line. Outages are twice as likely than the typical Berkeley Electric power source, the report said.

"We need to improve reliability and service in the McClellanville and Awendaw areas, and getting another source of wholesale power from a new transmission line and substation is crucial," said Berkeley Electric spokesman Eddie McKnight.

In addition, the current power demand on the line cannot handle future growth, where the population is expected to grow 2.2 percent each year for the next 20 years, Rural Utilities Service said in its impact statement.

With a new power line and substation near McClellanville, the existing distribution line could be broken into three circuits to serve the area, providing more reliable service to area residents should one circuit have problems. Also, the shorter distribution line would allow utility crews to identify problem areas quicker than on a 40-mile line.

Officials narrowed alternative routes from 13 to six, including eliminating the costly option of placing the line underground at the Santee River delta adjacent to U.S. Highway 17 or going through properties near Jamestown, where residents voiced the loudest opposition during a scoping hearing four years ago.

Four of the proposed routes generally run south from Belle Isle substation near Georgetown and either parallel U.S. Highway 17 or veer off through portions of the national forest. The other two routes start near Belle Isle but swing slightly west and south through Georgetown County before crossing the Santee River and moving either along U.S. 17 or through part of the forest in Charleston County.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.