Still saying 'no' to Delta project

Teal fly in the Santee Delta. (File)

Plans to install an electrical transmission line on 75-100 foot pylons across the Santee Delta were overwhelmingly rejected by McClellanville area residents at a public hearing in June. That sentiment has been underscored in written comments to the federal agency that would fund the project's construction across protected wildlife areas.

The Rural Utilities Service received some 300 comments about the proposal. Virtually all opposed the plan by Berkeley Electric Cooperative and Central Electric Power Cooperative to install the power line, which would tower above the Delta's rich natural habitat of forest, waterways and marsh. The federal RUS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, must consider public comments before deciding whether to fund a project.

No question, better electrical service is needed in the northern portion of Charleston County.

But residents have spoken almost as one in opposition to a plan that would significantly diminish the scenic and historic landscape that they cherish.

Certainly, residents know the problems with interrupted electrical service better than anyone. Yet many have said they would rather endure the occasional inconvenience than see the transmission project built as designed.

Apparently, Central Electric Power Cooperative is getting the message. Mark Svrcek, chief operating officer for CEPC, acknowledges the strong public sentiment against the project and tells us he is ready to work with the Berkeley co-op to develop another, less intrusive route - if feasible. To that end, CEPC is considering another public hearing in the McClellanville area to hear what residents might recommend.

An SCE&G spokesman already has expressed a willingness to work with the two co-ops on a power line alternative. At present, McClellanville is served by an SCE&G distribution line from the south.

"We heard loud and clear the concerns about crossing the Delta," Mr. Svrcek says. "We're sensitive to that and want to work with Berkeley and RUS" to evaluate other options. Those options include upgrading service along SCE&G's power line corridor which currently serves the area. An underground route has been added to the possibilities, Mr. Svrcek told us Friday.

Improving electrical service to the area is a worthy goal, but needs to be achieved in a manner that doesn't degrade the Delta, one of the nation's coastal treasures.

The underground option is an intriguing prospect.

But improving the existing power line route from the south, to avoid the Delta altogether, still looks like the best bet.