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Utilities Commission opens file on power line

About 170 homeowners turned out Thursday night to hear about plans to oppose a Duke Energy transmission line that would cross Henderson County. About 170 homeowners turned out Thursday night to hear about plans to oppose a Duke Energy transmission line that would cross Henderson County.

Confronted by an uproar over a proposed high-powered transmission line across Henderson County, the North Carolina Utilities Commission opened a public file on the case before Duke has filed an application, opponents of the power line learned Thursday night.


“They opened the docket for us,” Gordon Smith, a leader of opponents of a proposed western route that would cross the Big Willow-Hebron Road area, Horse Shoe, Etowah and Mills River. “They opened it early because of the comments they had coming in. That’s kind of a big deal.”

The Utilities Commission opened the docket (E2 SUB 1083) on Monday and so far has loaded copies of consumer’s comments. Duke Energy officials have said they don’t expect to file an application for permission to build the line until late this year or early next year and when they do they will have chosen a “preferred route.” Comments may be sent to

The proposed 45-mile transmission line from Campobello, S.C., to Duke Energy’s Lake Julian power plant has set off opposition throughout Henderson County and especially along the proposed routes. Duke Energy officials caution that many more people have been notified that they could be affected then likely will, since people within 1,000 feet of all the options were notified.

About 170 people gathered at Trinity Presbyterian Church Thursday night to hear updates on the application process and talk about ways to either stop the line, force the utility to bury it underground or move it from the western route. Meanwhile, the Mills River Town Council, in response to concerns raised by landowners and homeowners associations in the community, have scheduled a called meeting Friday morning to talk about the transmission line.

On Thursday night, Smith urged the homeowners to go to comment on the power line. Smith urged homeowners to submit comments by Friday, the original deadline, although other homeowners said the deadline had been extended to Aug. 31.

In other developments:

  • The Polk County Board of Commissioners and Saluda Town Commission have passed resolutions opposing the transmission line through those communities.
  • The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has intervened in that state’s review process to oppose the project, Smith said.
  • Smith cautioned residents filling out forms or making comments to use their property’s parcel number and not PIN to identify the property.

Many residents are pushing the idea of burying the 230-kilovolt line underground. Tom Hill, a Zirconia resident who was the 2014 Democratic nominee in the 11th congressional district, urged the homeowners to push for that option. “We have to stay focused,” he said. “If we bog down talking about wind machines and solar, they’ll say we’re talking about far out solutions.”

While it says it would evaluate underground options, “underground transmission lines have not proven to be better than overhead transmission lines because of extremely high cost and environmental concerns,” the utility says on its website. “Duke Energy is required to construct in the most cost-effective manner due to the impact on customers' rates. In addition, a fault in a buried line, caused by a manufacturing defect, substandard construction, or an accidental dig-in, would take much longer to repair than a fault in an overhead line. In addition, there can be significant impacts to the environment (e.g., wetlands, trees) and traffic and commerce from underground construction and maintenance. Because a transmission outage can affect a significant number of customers, some customers could experience power interruptions for one to two weeks while a fault is repaired. Duke Energy will take advantage of opportunities to co-locate the planned transmission lines with existing lines where possible.”