McClellanville-area residents made their opinion on a proposed transmission line clear at a public meeting Tuesday: They don't want anything to do with it.

"I oppose any project that crosses the Santee delta at any point. Raise your hand if you agree with me," said McClellanville resident Tommy Graham as most of the more than 50 citizens in attendance raised a hand in the air. "This is a sin against the Lowcountry of South Carolina."

The proposal is designed to improve the reliability of power service for Berkeley Electric Cooperative customers in the McClellanville area with a new 15- to 20-mile transmission line. Six alternate routes for the line are considered by Rural Utilities Service in a draft environmental impact statement released in April, but area homeowners and professionals say any of the routes would be devastating to local environmental and historical gems.

The 20 or so residents who spoke were all opposed to the proposed routes.

Nathan Dias, executive director of the Cape Romain Bird Observatory, said the draft environmental impact statement ignores the presence of many threatened and endangered species in the area.

"I can't think of a worse place to build power lines than across the Santee delta," he said.

Others, like archeologist Kendy Altizer, said the proposed routes would disrupt local historical sites.

Most speakers said they understood the need for improvements to the power structure, but were skeptical of this plan.

"We do have a problem. We need to upgrade the power system," said resident Thomas Colleton. "I have not seen any figures for how much this is going to cost me as a consumer. I think before I make an informed decision, I need to have more answers."

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

The rural areas around McClellanville, which are served by Berkeley Electric, suffer from frequent power outages because they are the end of the 40-mile distribution line. These rural areas would benefit from the proposed 15- to 20-mile line, which would extend from the Georgetown area across the Francis Marion National Forest and the Santee River delta.

The town of McClellanville is served by South Carolina Electric & Gas.

Lauren McGee Rayburn, an environmental scientist with Rural Utilities Service, said the agency would have an in-depth discussion based on the comments from the meeting.

Written comments on the proposal can be sent to Rayburn at Lauren.mcgee@wdc.usda.gov or to Lauren McGee Rayburn, Rural Utilities Service, 84 Coxe Ave., Suite 1E, Asheville, N.C. 28801.

Reach Katie West at 937-5574.