TVA officials answer questions at meeting

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 8/30/18

GEORGETOWN — Officials from the Tennessee Valley Authority held an information session Thursday in southern Meigs County to answer questions from local residents on proposed upgrades to its …

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TVA officials answer questions at meeting

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GEORGETOWN — Officials from the Tennessee Valley Authority held an information session Thursday in southern Meigs County to answer questions from local residents on proposed upgrades to its transmission system, as well as the construction of a new secure system controls center that will replace its aging facility located in downtown Chattanooga.

Although TVA sent letters to residents living in the area, some expressed concern regarding the location of a portion of the new transmission line, as well as some anxiety about the transparency of TVA’s intentions regarding a “secure facility” that will be constructed in the area.

The information session was held at Cedar Ridge Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Georgetown.

Construction of the $300 million, 185,000-square-foot systems control facility, which will be located on 167 acres near Georgetown and Gunstocker Creek, is expected to be completed and running by 2023. About 175 employees will be transferred from its current 20-year-old facility, located underground the TVA complex in downtown Chattanooga.

TVA control operations GM Steve Hayes told the Cleveland Daily Banner that the existing systems control center is not only aging, it also has no room to grow. Hayes also said the systems control center needs to be in a more secure location, rather than in an urban area such as downtown Chattanooga.

“There is no space for a new system without disrupting the [operations] floor,” Hayes said.

TVA public relations officer Malinda Hunter said the wooded area where the systems control center will be constructed will be an ideal location for the secure facility.

It is the brain center of the [power] distribution system," Hunter said.

Hunter said the trading floor where electric power is purchased and sold will remain at the current Chattanooga location.

According to TVA manager of transmission line engineering Keith Elder, the transmission line project will consist of building 5.25 miles of double-circuit transmission line to provide power to TVA’s proposed Gunstocker Creek 161-kilovolt station.

“The new line will have double-circuit steel poles that will be about 85 feet tall,” Elder said. 

Elder said the new poles will be built to accommodate the higher voltage that will travel along the transmission lines.

Regarding the new transmission lines, Elder said the agency found that it could not locate the new lines along Highway 58 due to the topographical features of the land, as well as the presence of homes in the area.

According to TVA, the $26 million new line would begin at its Sequoyah Nuclear plant and extend northwest about 5.25 miles to the proposed Gunstocker Creek station, which will be located at the intersections of Highways 58 and 60 in Meigs County. The line will also run through portions of Bradley and Hamilton counties.

About 4.25 miles of existing line will be torn down and replaced with the double-circuit poles.

The transmission line project is projected to be completed by 2021.

While about a dozen TVA officials were on hand to discuss the upcoming projects, local landowner and businessman Greg Vital remained concerned about the project, as well as the transparency of TVA officials. He said the letter that was sent to local residents was misleading. Vital owns property where the new transmission lines will be built.

Vital said TVA did not initially reveal what the intended use of what it had referred as a “secure facility.”

Other residents who expressed concern online about TVA’s intentions. According to the Facebook page titled “Stop Destroying Tennessee Farms,” residents lamented TVA’s plans.

One commenter said, “It’s beautiful land. Now, it’s going to be destroyed.”

Another wrote, “This county has nothing to show. We need growth.”

“This is just a TVA land grab,” another commenter wrote. “The town meeting is a formality.”

“What the heck is a secure office complex?” another concerned resident wrote.

“I think it is fantastic,” another commented.

Vital also said the three property owners should have been informed earlier about TVA’s intention to utilize imminent domain to acquire right of way to what he calls as “virgin farmland.”

“In a week the situation has dramatically changed from a power line upgrade to potentially going through three farms to building a $300 million facility,” Vital said.

 The community, according to Vital, is not prepared for the projects. In addition, the lack of water and sewer service to the site where the systems control center will be built is also a concern.

“It’s going to change the infrastructure in a rural community,” Vital said. “There have been no road improvements. The officials have kept us in the dark.”

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