BOX CREEK POWER LINE CONDEMNATION
RUTHERFORD & MCDOWELL COUNTIES, NORTH CAROLINA
Unique Places worked with a private landowner to assist in the re-routing of a high-voltage power line that was proposed by Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation to run through the 7,000 acre Box Creek Wilderness Natural Heritage area in western North Carolina. If developed as first proposed by the power company, the power line would have destroyed more than two miles of intact and exceptionally-diverse forest, and would have significant fragmentation in an important wildlife corridor between the South Mountains and Blue Ridge Escarpment (see here for award winning South Mountains to Blue Ridge Corridor Map Atlas completed by Unique Places GIS & Design).
This project required Unique Places to coordinate a very diverse team of consultants, attorneys, public relations professionals, and biologists/botanists, across a nearly five year time frame. Our leadership on this project resulted in the power company developing the power line along the road and existing utility line infrastructure adjacent to Box Creek Wilderness, which was the route we designed and proposed to the power company early in the conflict.
Unique Places utilized its “layering” strategy (https://www.uniqueplacesllc.com/about/) to discover multiple strategies to illustrate why our route for the power line was superior. Our strategies included:
Analyzing and assessing alternative options for power line alignment that were less expensive, utilized existing ROWs and avoided impacts on high value natural heritage areas.
Developed a partnership with multiple agencies, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to create a Federal conservation easement across that would influence the ultimate location of the power line.
Created a mitigation bank to add additional protections to riparian areas, and generate revenue for the landowner (https://www.uniqueplacesmitigation.com/bcw-mitigation-bank).
Conducted extensive biological surveys to document ecological value of site (see video below).
Conducted an outreach and education campaign in coordination with our valued non-profit partner, Unique Places to Save, to help educate the public about the issue and garnered nearly 2,000 signatures in support of our efforts.
Unique Places CEO, Jeff Fisher, who is a NC licensed attorney (https://forrestfirm.com/people/jeffrey-a-fisher/), coordinated many legal responses to the power company’s eminent domain lawsuit against our client.
Our assistance resulted in the electric cooperative choosing not to develop the power line across Box Creek Wilderness, but instead using existing ROWs and infrastructure for their electric transmission needs.