If you go

What: Hearing on a proposed new electric transmission line to serve the McClellanville area.

When: 5-8 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: St. James-Santee Elementary School, 8900 U.S. Highway 17, McClellanville.

Who: Staff from Rural Utilities Service, Central Electric Cooperative and other agencies will be available to answer questions.

Comment: A 45-day public comment period began May 9. Written comments may be submitted to Lauren McGee Rayburn, Environmental Scientist, Rural Utilities Service, 84 Coxe Ave., Suite 1E, Asheville, NC 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.

STATement: To view the draft environmental impact statement online, go to rurdev.usda.gov. 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 designed to bring more reliable power service to Berkeley Electric Cooperative customers during a public hearing 5-8 p.m. Tuesday.

The proposed 15- to 20-mile, 115-kilovolt transmission line would extend from Winyah Bay in Georgetown, across the Santee River delta and through up to 11 acres of the Francis Marion National Forest to McClellanville along one of six routes being considered by Rural Utilities Service.

At least one environmental group has voiced concerns over the routes, saying other options should be considered.

State-owned utility Santee Cooper would provide the power and sell it to Central Electric Cooperative, which then would provide it to Berkeley Electric.

Areas around McClellanville currently receive electric service from a metering point 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, serving about 1,100 co-op customers from Awendaw to outlying areas of McClellanville. The town is served by SCE&G.

Because they are at the end of the 40-mile 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, according to the 445-page environmental impact statement issued by Rural Utilities Service in April.

"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.

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.

The Coastal Conservation League expressed concerns with the proposed routes.

"(They) would be ecologically devastating to the area," said Natalie Olson, land-use project manager for the environmental group.

"Two of the six alternatives cross the Santee Delta Wildlife Management Area, and all of the alternatives cross state, federal and privately protected lands," she said. "These lands contain numerous endangered and threatened species, streams, wetlands and culturally significant structures and properties."

The league believes other alternatives should be reconsidered to improve power quality in the area, such as rebuilding the existing distribution line.

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