JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – Residents of a Johns Island community are fighting back against Santee Cooper’s plan to build 90ft poles with transmission power lines across portions of Johns Island.
Its a battle that’s been going on dating back to 2018. The group says the proposed power lines meant to provide power to other communities should be buried to protect the ecosystem, preserve the marshes and safe guard the lines from weather events.
Adam Smolka has lived at his house near Pennys Creek for 15 years and says the new power lines would significantly impact the surrounding community.
“Two of these poles will be situated on either side of this tributary of Pennys Creek,” says Smolka. “That impacts a lot of residents.”
The new project includes 5.1 miles of new Santee Cooper power lines stretching from a James Island substation near Queensboro to a Johns Island substation. The overhead lines would loop through marshes and residences on Johns Island connecting the two.
The 90-foot-tall poles would impact roughly 36 houses and several trees. Residents say a better plan is to bury the lines.
“Burying a power line is not a novel concept, power lines have been buried over stretches of several miles in Mount Pleasant,” says Smolka.
State Senator Sandy Senn says constituents are pushing back on the proposal for several reasons. Hope to change the proposal has diminished but the plan recently hit a snag. Charleston County Board of Zoning Appeals denied a zoning request. Santee Cooper appealed the decision, the matter is likely headed to court. Senator Senn is hopeful it could mean changes to the proposal.
“Both Coastal Conservation League as well as now Charleston County do not want some grand trees taken from where they plan to run those power lines,” says Senator Senn.
Santee Cooper says the new overhead lines are needed to maintain power supply to the islands while updating and replacing existing technology that’s been in use since 1986. They say buried lines are not feasible due to cost and accessibility during repairs but have heard residents concerns.
Santee Cooper also says the current proposal won’t displace any residents or businesses and will have less impact on the ecosystem than burying the lines and states underground lines aren’t being considered.
Smolka is hopeful the parties can meet somewhere in the middle to preserve a way of life. He believes a better alternative than burying the lines is replacing the existing lines and back-up lines along currents routes to prevent crossing marsh land and tidal creeks line Pennys Creek.
“That’s an incredible intrusion into this view which all of my family and many of my neighbors on both sides of this creek have enjoyed for years,” says Smolka. “Above all, it’s not necessary.”
Senator Senn says the group plans to keep pushing Santee Cooper, Charleston County and others to find a favorable outcome.