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Transmission line puts commissioners 'in a gun fight without bullets'

Judy Peyton appeals to the Henderson County commissioners to help homeowners fighting Duke Energy's proposed transmission line through the county. Judy Peyton appeals to the Henderson County commissioners to help homeowners fighting Duke Energy's proposed transmission line through the county.

Faced with a crowd opposed to a 40-mile transmission line Duke Energy wants to run through Henderson County, county commissioners expressed frustration with their lack of power to influence the project and assured the constituents they would do what they can to minimize harmful effects.

“This is the most frustrating thing that I’ve found this board confronted with since I’ve been on it,” said Commissioner Grady Hawkins. “And the reason is this board finds itself in a gun fight and we’ve not got any bullets. I think everybody on this board is concerned about the impact of the line on property values, on tourism and on all the aspects that are affected by this line. It’s frustrating that there’s very little that we can have impact on. This board wll work to try to get the best resolution that has the least impact on the whole area. We’re in a gunfight and we don’t have any ammo.”
Ten people spoke and another 20 people showed up to oppose the $320 million line that would run from Campobella, S.C., to the Duke Energy power plant on Lake Julian in South Asheville. Speakers said that the line would hurt tourism, cut property values by up to 40 percent and jeopardize the health of county residents.
“If you’re affected, we’re affected,” Commissioner Michael Edney said. “I think you’ll see each of us speaking on your behalf. We’re here with you and we’re on your side.”
Gordon Smith, who lives outside the village of Flat Rock, is leading a group of about 120 property owners opposing one option known as segment 20.
“We found that about a third of the folks in the study area have not been notified,” Smith said. “Of our group, we don’t feel that the line makes any sense and we don’t feel it’s in the best interest of the county to have the line.”
Even if it has no power to approve or block the transmission line, one speaker said, the commissioners had failed their constituents by not doing more to notify property owners of the project and its proposed paths.Others said that Duke had not notified them or had only recently notified them that their property was on a route the utility is considering. Tom Hill, of Zirconia, urged the county commissioners to push Duke to bury the transmission line underground.

Duke officials have said the magnetic field the lines emit have been shown to be safe. The cost of burying the line would be too great, Duke says, and when a buried line goes down it takes much longer to dig up and fix than an overhead line.
Commissioner Charlie Messer said the board would work to make sure the project brings the least amount of harm.
“This would impact my business,” Messer said. “It would affect a lot of the development that’s taken place on the northern end in the last 10 years. I think we need to take a stand and try to work with Duke Power. We’re going to monitor it. We need to get everybody as much information as we can.”