May 24--The National Parks Conservation Association intends to sue the Army Corps of Engineers and National Marine Fisheries Service, saying the agencies' review of the Dominion Energy's Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line project failed to adequately consider the project's effects on local wildlife.
The National Parks Conservation Association, a national environmental and conservation group, sent its 60-day notice of intent to sue Monday, according to a news release from the group.
The conservation group's notice alleges the agencies' review did not acknowledge that Shortnose Sturgeon, an endangered species, are in the James River and failed to thoroughly evaluate the effects of the project on juvenile Atlantic Sturgeon, the release states.
The notice formally requests the corps place a halt on Dominion's project until the effects of the project on the federally protected species can be further studied. The notice says the incomplete reviews violate the Endangered Species Act.
"Endangered juvenile Atlantic Sturgeon and their critical habitat have been found at the very site where the transmission tower foundations are currently being constructed. Until proper review is completed, construction on the project must stop to prevent irreparable harm to these endangered fish populations and the historic setting of this treasured place," said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, in the release.
But as far as Dominion is concerned, the review process was completed thoroughly.
"We fully stand behind the Army Corps of Engineers' decision. The decision to grant the permit came after a thorough, five-year review process with negotiations among the Corps, Dominion Energy, and dozens of environmental, cultural and historic preservation groups," Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Harris wrote in an email. "Every other alternative fails to meet the need or has greater environmental and cultural impacts. No amount of additional study will change the facts."
A National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman declined to comment, stating the organization doesn't discuss litigation. A corps spokesman likewise declined to comment because the corps doesn't discuss litigation.
While Dominion has said the $325 million project is necessary to provide reliable electric service for more than 600,000 people, preservation groups have said the project will damage historic sites, such as Historic Jamestowne, and the environment. The corps issued a permit to allow Dominion to build the transmission line last July. The transmission line runs from James City across the James River to Surry.
Dominion says the construction of the line remains on schedule to be completed in summer 2019.
"We are making great progress and continue to expect the line to be energized by the summer of 2019 as scheduled," Harris wrote in an email on May 15.
Last spring, the corps, preservation groups and Dominion agreed to a $90 million mitigation plan to offset the project's impact on historic properties and the environment. Dominion provided money to a number of environmental organizations and local Indian tribes for various projects, such as shoreline stabilization and water quality improvements.
Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.
2 p.m., May 24: This story was updated with comments from a Dominion spokeswoman and additional information.
This story was orginally published 1 p.m. May 23.
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