By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Duke Energy is looking at alternate sites for their new substation. Three months after a 90-day moratorium on construction at the Kituwah site, the company is weighing its options. Opponents to the substation, which many claim will destroy the view shed at the Mother Town of the Cherokee, are watching closely.
“We are getting very close to finalizing an alternate site for the Hyatt Tie Station in Swain County, North Carolina,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Jason Walls. “Working very closely with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Swain County Commissioners, we have identified a few possibilities, in addition to the current location.”
Walls related that one site is a 13-acre tract at the Swain County Industrial Park. Duke Energy is seeking an option to purchase the property for $400,000, and Walls said the company will grant the county a $1.1 million grant “to compensate it for infrastructure investments made in the property and to relocate its planned information technology center.”
He related that, in addition to the above-mentioned property, Duke Energy is looking at other sites as well. “No decision has been made to relocate the tie station. However, securing options to purchase property and securing necessary rights-of-way for the station moves us much closer.”
Principal Chief Michell Hicks commented, “We continue to look at alternate sites in conjunction with Duke Energy and we are very confident that a new site will be identified in the very near future. It is and has always been the desire of the Tribe to keep the view shed of Kituwah protected and whole.”
The Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley organization has been active, since the first dirt was moved on the project, to help save the view shed in the area.
Natalie Smith, one of the founders of the group, said, “I’m happy to hear that they are considering a new location. And, I hope that they can find a suitable location as soon as possible. Although, I expect that they should follow every state and federal law that’s been written for them to follow in doing that.”
The group has found support in several state lawmakers.
In a recent letter to Edward S. Finley, Jr., N.C. Utilities Commission, State Senator John Snow, Jr. wrote, “No citizen of North Carolina should live in fear that an easement for a small, lower voltage transmission line might soon evolve, without notice and an opportunity to be heard, into an easement for a larger impact, higher voltage transmission line.”
Letters of support were also sent to Finley from State Senators Martin Nesbitt and Joe Sam Queen.
Walls, while optimistic of the current options, did say, “Our customers expect electricity to be there when they need it, and it is our commitment to deliver on this promise. We are working extremely hard to finalize all details with alternate locations, and will continue to do so. However, if we cannot work through the details, our only option will be to proceed at the current location, but take all steps practical to reduce visual mitigation of the station.”