Area residents urge Polk commissioners to stop Duke Power plans

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2015


In front of a standing room only crowd, Polk County Commissioners heard from many residents who urged the county to help put a stop to Duke Energy’s plan to run transmission lines through Polk County.

Residents said transmission lines would ruin the beauty and rural nature of the county, lower property values throughout the county and discussed potential health hazards of living under power lines.

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Commissioners met Monday, July 20 and heard 14 are residents during citizen comments about Duke Energy’s plans. Citizen comments alone lasted about an hour, with residents mostly commenting on Duke Energy’s plan.

The county had Duke Energy’s plan on the agenda during the county manager’s report, but moved the item to prior to citizen comments to give residents an update.

Commissioner chairman Tom Pack said he is concerned about the plan as well, but unfortunately the board of commissioners has little if any say in the process.

Residents speak

Residents packed the room, taking photographs of the meeting with some wearing t-shirts already made from formed alliances against Duke Energy’s plan.

Greg Lobas said whether you are a republican, democratic, rich or poor there is one thing everyone can agree on and that is this area is not just a local but a national treasure.

“This transmission line imposed on us by Duke Energy will stop all that,” said Lobas.

He said one proposal is for a 150-ft. tower to be 250-ft from his front door, saying it will destroy his property and destroy his neighborhood.

“Duke Energy is a bully plain and simple,” said Lobas.

Charles Parrish mainly discussed herbicides that Duke Energy will spray forever to maintain the property. He said a creek for his property will no longer be safe and he bets water wells will no longer be safe, although Duke says there’s no hazard of living under power lines.

“It’s a real issue,” Parrish said.

Parrish said these lines carry electricity.

“This is not our problem, this is Duke’s problem,” Parrish said. “They have other options and they need to use them.”

Zora Rhodes Davies said her family has been in this area since the early 1700s. She retired from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and retired to Lake Adger.

One route of the transmission line, Davies said, is going over six homes and 16 lots then continues to Bright’s Creek and up to Wildcat Spur. She spoke of “not in our backyard,” and said the county needs to work together and be a whole county on this. Davies also said not only homes will be affected but a lot of species of flora and fauna are also going to be affected.

Kate Bond, who lives at Lake Adger, asked commissioners to pass a resolution. She said studies show there are health issues related to living near transmission lines and one of the proposals will go right by Polk County Middle School.

“Each year millions of birds are killed by power lines alone,” Bond said. She also said, “property values will plummet,” including properties up to one and a half miles away from the lines. She said Duke is proposing 45 miles of “hideous towers.”

“This is not progress for Polk,” said Bond. “We gain nothing for this. “The only progress is for Duke Energy.”

Ed Krause, Lake Adger resident, said he’s lived in western North Carolina more than 40 years and this has to be the most beautiful place on earth. He said the lines will affect the property values adversely at Lake Adger and Lake Adger properties mean about $900,000 per year in tax revenues for Polk County. Krause added that Lake Adger is a community that doesn’t require that many county services, so the county is getting a good deal.

Krause suggested the county do a study on what the affect on the property values of this county will be and commissioners passing a resolution against it immediately.

He also said he doesn’t think the area can fight the power lines but suggested they run up I-26.

Joan Puma spoke of Polk’s beautiful hills being threatened. She said one route for the proposed lines would run right through Persimmon Hill (a subdivision off Peniel Road in Columbus). She spoke of some studies showing electrical lines cause cancer.

“I don’t know if there is proof positive but as a cancer survivor myself I don’t want to take any chances,” said Puma.

Rebecca Kemp, who was wearing a bright green “United to Save Our Foothills” tshirt said Polk County was built on its beauty. She said she is retired and could live anywhere in the country she chooses and she chose to live here.

“That’s why people move here,” said Kemp.

She said she was happy to hear commissioners opening remarks.

“Who does this project benefit,”Kemp asked. “It benefits Asheville. It doesn’t benefit us at all.”

Kemp said she attended the first Duke Energy public meeting and asked why Campobello and Duke answered that they own the property. She said she asked why not use the I-26 corridor and was told I-26 couldn’t be used because they couldn’t get the right of way.

“Ok,” Kemp said, “so it’s ok to take the right of way from all the citizens?”

Ellis Fincher spoke of other scars on Polk’s mountains such as Chocolate Drop, which after years will grow back. He said if Duke Energy runs the line, it could put a horizontal scar on White Oak Mountain that is not going to heal because they will continue to spray herbicide.

Fincher said he is happy to hear commissioners are willing to fight and that Polk County is the smallest county affected.

“David slew Goliath,” said Fincher. “We’ll be behind you and make ours heard.”

Madelon Wallace said the area’s economic base includes horses, cattle, wineries and farming and that’s why the Tryon International Equestrian Center is here.

Wallace said the gateways to North and South Carolina are Columbus and Tryon exits of I-26 and elected officials should approach the states and stress the gateways.

“Our property values won’t just go down,” said Wallace, “they will tank. “It will affect everyone in the area, not just people near the power line.”

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he’s received a lot of calls and emails from concerned residents and had a lengthy conversation with N.C. Rep. Chris Whitmire.

“I expressed my concerns and (Whitmire) said how important it is to show up at these meetings, to speak up and to form alliances,” Gasperson said.

Gasperson and Pack suggested reaching out to other counties and municipalities to form a group of elected officials.

Pack said Polk can look at all options and resolutions to approve.

“If they get enough of that from us and surrounding counties maybe they will look at that,” said Pack. “Hopefully at the next meeting we will have more information and can put it on the county’s website.”

Pack said the county manager has some contact information for residents and will have a report during the county’s Aug. 10 meeting regarding how the Duke Energy process will work and who makes the decisions. Commissioners are also drafting a resolution and researching which agencies besides Duke Energy to submit the resolution.

County manager Marche Pittman showed residents the letter that went to residents close to the proposed routes of the lines from Duke Energy as well as some contact numbers.

The phone numbers for the N.C. Utilities Commission are 1-866-380-9816 or 919-733-9277.