Solomons Residents Speak Out About Utility Poles

February 28, 2013

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4. Zoom-A Looking North from Holiday Inn

From new Library looking North

On Tuesday, at the Calvert Board of County Commissioners, during public comment, a number of residents, representing the Solomons Town Center area, were there to talk about the electric poles that SMECO was using for their Southern Maryland Reliability Project.

Donald McDougall, a resident of Solomons and representing the Solomons Civic Association and the aesthetic impacts on the Solomons Town Center. He said his goal was to convince the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to make the issue a priority item for the county.

McDougall started his presentation with a direct quote from a SMECO commissioned study that was submitted as part of their Public Service Commission application. It was part of SMECO’s “Macro-Corridor Study” in 2008. The following quote is from this: “Given the popularity of the Solomons area for tourists and weekend vacationers, all of the previously described alternatives will eliminate any potential visual impacts to this area by placing the proposed 230kV transmission line completely underground from the Newtown Road area to a point well south of the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge.”

2. zoom-B South Bound Solomons Island Road Opposite Town Center Shopping Center

South Bound Solomons Island Road Opposite Town Center Shopping Center

SMECO has significantly changed its approach for Solomons Town Center over the past four years. It is different from their own Macro-Corridor Study recommendation. SMECO is claiming the new power poles will balance functionality with visual aesthetics and blend with the wooded sections of the route.

Originally SMECO provided two estimates for underground placement of the lines. These estimates were presented to the Solomons Civic Association in November 2012. The first option was $35M to bury everything from the Navy Rec Center to Dowell Road. This included the 69kV line which already exists above ground, the new 230kV line headed to St. Mary’s and a spare unused 230kV line. The second option was $8M to bury just the new single 230kV circuit underground from the Navy Rec Center, along Route 4 to the Newtown Road intersection. This is approximately $6.7M over the already planned cost.

2. zoomed South Bound Solomons Island Road Opposite Town Center Shopping Center

South Bound Solomons Island Road Opposite Town Center Shopping Center

There is already a planned underground segment on the Navy Rec Center, and the Solomons residents asked SMECO to extend it to Newtown Road/Dowell road intersection at the Northern edge of the Solomons Town Center boundary. They say that the amount of money needed to accomplish this is greatly exaggerated ($35 million). This amount supposedly is needed to place all the circuits underground, including the existing 69kV and more importantly, the spare, unused circuit. The Civic Association is focused on putting much less underground, reducing the cost ranging from $6.7M to $11M. This range was estimated, based on extrapolating for additional distance that they are seeking along Newtown Road. SMECO did not confirm the $12M with anything more than a nod.

3. Zoom-A Looking South next to Boomerangs Restaurant

Looking South next to Boomerangs Restaurant

According to the residents and businesses, these mega-poles in Solomons will absolutely destroy the aesthetics of the charming seaside village. They asked the BOCC to help them protect a major resource for Calvert County, Southern Maryland and the State, and a tourist destination. There are approximately 100 businesses and an economic engine and tax base for the county and state. It is also home to 2400 people and a second home to many more. And it is also a vacation spot for more than a half million sailors and their families who visit each year. According to McDougall, all the entities in Solomons are aligned in agreement that the poles must be stopped so Solomons can remain a scenic destination. The poles are between 140 feet and 160 feet tall, some with many arms for cables.

Austin J Slater, Jr. CEO of SMECO sent a letter in response to the Board of Directors at Windward Harbor of Solomons, regarding putting the lines underground. He stated that it would cost $35M versus $3M to put the lines overhead. He also stated that SMECO’s Board of Directors disagreed with Windward Harbor in that the project would have a deleterious impact on the Solomons community.
Margit Miller / Staff Writer / Editor

[photos courtesy of SMECO]

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8 Responses to Solomons Residents Speak Out About Utility Poles

  1. Getoverit on February 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I seriously doubt that the tourist and sailors come to the island to inspect the electric poles.

  2. Pat on February 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I doubt tourists will stop going to places like the Tiki Bar and spending their money because of some power poles.

  3. Great Read on February 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Shouldn’t everybody be looking at saving money right now? If it’s not broke why fix it, I’ve never heard that place would be perfect if it wasn’t for those big ungy power poles standing up!

  4. timebandit on March 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    A lot of those people visiting the area are pretty drunk pretty fast shouldn’t make a huge difference

  5. Paul Martin on March 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    It is ridiculously expensive to place electric transmission circuits underground. Not only does one need massive cables incredibly well insulated to keep the different circuit legs from arcing with each other, the entire system needs to sealed and pressurized with constant oil flow to keep the system from overheating. Those differences in cost estimates seem genuine to me.

  6. Anonymous on March 2, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Those poles are equally ugly in Huntingtown and on Broomes Island Road. Tourists have to drive past them in Huntingtown on their way to Solomons. Why should Solomons get treated any differently than the residents did when they were literally being constructed in their front yards? Tourists come and then they leave…I seriously doubt they will gripe about the poles when talking of their vacation in Solomons. Residents of mid and Northern Calvert didn’t lime the poles either but that didn’t seem to stop them from being constructed. Stop whining Solomons… are no different than the rest of the Calvert County tax paying citizens.

  7. Anonymous on March 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Has anyone notice the chemtrail spraying in the sky over calvert county?

  8. Slick Willie on March 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Sorry Mr.McDougall, it’s not 2008 anymore.