GTC confirms 515 alternate path to Boardtown road project

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – An official statement from the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) today has given relief to the Boardtown road community, through Highway 515, who have been vocally opposing the major project’s plans to build on the road.

The community and its leaders often stated that they supported the project and agreed with it being a needed upgrade, but wanted the project relocated to a different location. Many specifically stated Highway 515 as an alternative.

Even GTC said they had originally looked at 515 but were turned down.

515 515Today, with the aid of House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, the GTC said, “Following months of extensive analysis at the request of the local community, Georgia Transmission has determined that Highway 515 is a viable corridor for the Whitepath Electric Reliability Project. Conversations are underway with the Georgia Department of Transportation to develop a proposed route for the project adjacent to Highway 515 that meets engineering and safety constraints.”

GTC gave specific thanks to Ralston and Gooch and the community saying the result was a culmination of efforts and input from “community partners including citizens, civic organizations, and elected officials.”

As plans continue for the official path the 46 kV sub-transmission line will take, a preliminary path has already been laid out in consultation with Speaker Ralston. GTC said that this new path involves purchasing easements to minimize the impact of the line on rights of way owned by both the public and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

In late September of 2020, GTC said they were beginning “an extensive look” into the 515 and another alternative path. Just over seven months later, they are confirming this path as viable.

The opposition started last year after a series of public information meetings showed a pathway leading down Boardtown road after GTC had already ruled out the 515 path and one along a CSX rail line.

GTC said the Highway 515 path was denied due to limitations including a request denial by GDOT. 

Now, with the path approved, House Speaker Ralston said, “This outcome demonstrates that workable solutions can be achieved when parties come together in cooperative spirit for the betterment of the community. Sen. Gooch and I are pleased that our partners at Georgia Transmission and Amicalola EMC have done their due diligence in service to the community and are now able to take the next step in ensuring reliable electricity for households and businesses in Gilmer County.”

Ralston was brought in on the project discussion after Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners drafted letters to him and Gooch last year. Citizens flooded into the county’s monthly meeting asking for help in discussions to find an alternative path from Boardtown. With the board’s letters and offers to set up additional meetings for citizens, they pledged to aid in what ways they could.

With the confirmation of this alternative path’s viability, Georgia Transmission Vice President of Project Services John Reese said, “Georgia Transmission is proud that we were able to honor our word to the community while fulfilling our mission of helping to keep the lights on for Gilmer County. Although considerable work remains to be done we appreciate the active engagement of Amicalola EMC and its members, and the leadership of Speaker Ralston and Senator Gooch, in identifying a solution to the critical electric reliability need in the area.”

According to GTC’s statement, they will soon begin undertaking the process necessary for “advancing the route along Highway 515.” This process involves finalizing the route, contacting property owners in the area, and more public meetings.

For citizens wishing to continue following this project, Georgia Transmission will offer updates on the project page of their site.

Responses show possible changes to Boardtown Road Power Line Project

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Over the weekend and the past few days, information has circulated among residents on Boardtown Road and the citizens asking for relocations of the project to protect the community and natural beauty of the area.

BoardtownThis group has consistently been writing, calling, and sharing information with Georgia House Speaker and local District Representative David Ralston and State Senator Steve Gooch about the project.

According to an email from Scotty Abercrombie, Ralston responded to citizens about the issue saying that he had heard their concerns and was working on the issue at the capitol. Abercrombie also said that he had responded favorably stating that he appreciated the calls and emails.

Abercrombie said that he was happy with the response and that Ralston had heard the issue on Boardtown Road loud and clear. Abercrombie stated, “I appreciated him reaching out to me to discuss.”

Abercrombie said that Speaker Ralston asked for patience and time to work towards the goal.

However, it was not much time before another update reported that some progress was being made and an extension, as well as a review meeting, had been set.

Meanwhile, another report circulating among citizens stated that a member of the Amicalola Electric Board told a citizen that the longer route could also have negative effects on citizens. This email reported the information on Boardtown from the board member stating that they were told, “Amicalola Electric will have to pay for the line with borrowed money and if the line went the long route, it would result in an increase in our power bill.”

Over last weekend, Georgia Transmission Corporation Public Affairs Director Terry Cole sent an email shared among the residents stating:

In consultation with Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, Georgia Transmission Corporation releases the following statement on the Whitepath Electric Reliability Project:

As we shared with the property owners and others at our public meetings, community voices are an essential part of our process as we develop solutions to electric reliability challenges.  Since those meetings, we have carefully reviewed what the community expressed.  We’ve weighed how best to move forward to achieve the goal everyone can agree on which is to ensure reliable power for the homes, farms, and businesses in the Boardtown Road area.

In direct response, we are undertaking an extensive review and analysis of the two routes the community expressed interest in us examining, GA Hwy 515 and the CSX railroad corridor.  We anticipate this taking several months to properly conduct the examination of existing land use, environmental conditions, engineering constraints, and cost of construction, operation and maintenance.   Impacts to other property owners in the Gilmer County community will also be a factor for consideration.

As a not-for-profit member cooperative, Georgia Transmission is committed to working with the local community to fully explore all options available to reach a solution.  We appreciate your continued willingness to engage in dialogue and open conversation about this challenging situation.  We believe that by working together all of us can arrive at a solution that delivers the needed electric power to your community.

“I appreciate the willingness of Georgia Transmission Corporation to study this project in exhaustive detail before any final decisions are made,” said Speaker David Ralston.  “We all understand and appreciate the need to consider both our infrastructure requirements and preservation of the scenic beauty of our mountain region.  My thanks to all involved for taking the time necessary to reach the best possible solution for our community.”

With the new updates, official letter from Gilmer County have responded to both Speaker Ralston and Senator Gooch for their efforts in the issue along with emails from citizens and residents.

That letter was originally a part of a resolution from the Board of Commissioners to support citizens in their concerns, but has become a letter of thanks in response to the news. Approved by the Board and signed by Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, the letters stated to each representative:

 

Dear Speaker Ralston,

I want to thank you for your response to the people of Boardtown Road, and for your efforts in asking Georgia Transmission to consider alternate routes. You have always been very responsive to the needs of the people of Gilmer County, and it is greatly appreciated.

I do understand the need for increased capacity and reliability of our electrical system, and also appreciate the effort by our EMCs and Georgia Transmission to address this need. Our Commissioners support the project but also feel that a path can be selected that would have less of an impact on quality of life and property values in the county. We do believe that an alternate path would be preferable and are grateful for GTC’s decision to take another look at these options.

Thank you for all that you do for the people of Gilmer County. 

Dear Senator Gooch,

I want to express my gratitude for the support you offered to the people of Boardtown Road in Gilmer County, and for your efforts in asking Georgia Transmission to consider alternate routes. You have always been very responsive to the needs of the people of Gilmer County, and it is greatly appreciated.

I do understand the need for increased capacity and reliability of our electrical system, and also appreciate the effort by our EMCs and Georgia Transmission to address this need. Our Commissioners support the project but also feel that a path can be selected that would have less impact on quality of life and property values in the county. We do believe that an alternate path would be preferable and are grateful for GTC’s decision to take another look at these options.

Thank you for all that you do for the people of Gilmer County

At this time, the meetings will move forward and the representatives are looking into the issues of this project and ways “to preserve the natural beauty of areas in the mountain communities.”

Though it has been stated that the review and re-evaluation of the alternate paths will cause some delays, no specifics have been given at this time to how long those delays will be. Citizens are continuing to talk about the issue with the favorable news to their concerns, and are looking to continue pushing for awareness as the project moves forward and they await the outcome of the review.

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