BLUEFIELD, Va. — Local residents found few answers to their questions about the East River Mountain Hydroelectric Project, but Dominion Energy Co. supplied lots of information during the public information session July 16.
Stations with maps, brochures, pictures and other details filled the gym at Graham High School as company representatives were on hand to answer residents’ questions about the project.
The representatives stressed the project is still in its early stages, and they are still determining if the East River Mountain site will accommodate the powerhouse and reservoirs and whether or not Wolf Creek can supply the 6.5 billion gallons of water needed to fill the reservoirs.
Dominion plans to file a pre-application document with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this year. The company estimates a 10-year development and construction phase for the project if it goes forward.
The core drillings recently approved by the Tazewell County Planning Commission will continue into the early part of next year, and gauges are in place in Wolf Creek to check the flow of water. The Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Conservation and Recreation and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will also have to make sure there will be no negative environmental impact on the creek.
Mussel and fish surveys will be conducted as will a habitat assessment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife will also be involved in the process.
Jeremy Slayton, public information officer with Dominion, said the 6.5 billion gallons of water would be gradually pumped from the creek to the reservoirs over a two-year period. Once the ponds are filled, the only additional water needed will be to replace what evaporates or is lost from the reservoirs.
A study by Chmura Analytics estimates the project would bring more than 2,000 jobs to the area during construction. The company estimates it would create up to 50 permanent jobs and $37 million in annual economic benefits to Southwest Virginia.
A large group of citizens made their way from station to station discussing the project, and all of them seemed positive. Hal Keene’s family owns property on East River Mountain, and he was there to see what impact the project would have on it.
Keene said he got his questions answered and was hoping the project comes to fruition.
Dave Cox, a Bluefield resident, said the project looked good, but he was concerned that the use of alternative energy sources would cause the cost of electricity to rise.