Updated: Wednesday, March 13 2013, 07:32 AM EDT
The Rutherfordton Electrical Membership Cooperative (R.E.M.C.) has petitioned Rutherford County to put in a power line across North Carolina's largest privately registered Natural Heritage Area. R.E.M.C. General Manager Joe Joplin says plans for the power line were in the works long before Box Creek Wilderness became a Natural Heritage Area. Now, with the power need increasing in the Dysartsville area, Joplin says it's time to move forward to make sure all of REMC's more than 67,000 customers continue to have reliable power.
Jeff Fisher is the manager of the Box Creek Wilderness. He says putting a powerline across the property will allow invasive species to enter it, plus lead to trespassing, erosion, and water problems. Fisher and other environmentalists want the powerline built along the edge of the property along highway 221, where there are already existing powerlines. Joplin says there is not enough room, with the widening of 221, two railroad right of ways, the existing power line and steep mountains on either side. However, Fisher says his property has hired a nationally known power line engineer who told R.E.M.C. it can be done.
Meanwhile, R.E.M.C. customers like Dierdre Lightsey want more information about how the new power line will impact existing rates and the environment. Joplin says the entire cost of the project and the customer impact is not known yet. Fisher says he and property owner Tim Sweeney are geared up for a long court battle to keep the power line off of Box Creek Wilderness.
by Karen Wynne