5 mins read

 Thanks Dominion for the heads up … NOT 

BEAUFORT – After weeks of citizens’ complaints about tree cutting, folks from Dominion Energy paid a visit to the Beaufort City Council last week … but not to talk about tree limbs or troublesome palmettos. 

No, the regional corporate team came to tell the elected officials and those who came to listen their latest plans for improving electrical service to our rapidly growing area. 

 Dominion Energy District Manager Even Wheeler reacts to a question regarding tree trimming and utility pole replacement from Beaufort City Council members during a work session Tuesday, May 26 in council chambers. A handful of residents from Frazer Drive, seen in background, were on hand to complain about the power company’s practices. Photo by Bob Sofaly. 

For 30 minutes, the team outlined their plans for high-voltage distribution and transmission lines to serve, not just Beaufort, but the increasing residences east of the city, out on the islands. 

And those plans, to the shock and horror of those present, include the replacement of 115 wooden poles with taller, galvanized steel pillars, similar to those already marching into town from Yemassee and crossing the Whale Branch. The six-mile path for new poles starts in Burton, will cross Battery Creek and run along Fraser Drive, down the Spanish Moss Trail, down Southside Blvd., over Ribaut Road to the Beaufort River. 

Bull Street resident Jane Rehal confronts Dominion Energy officials Will Epting and Matt Talley during Beaufort City Council’s work session Tuesday May 26 at City Hall. A handful of residents were on hand to complain about the power company’s tree trimming and utility power replacement practices.

(Anyone wanting more details about the plan can check out the video of the May 25 city council workshop meeting on the City of Beaufort’s Facebook page.) 

Maybe “shock and horror” are too severe words to describe the reaction of those few citizens in the live audience that night allowed to watch their local government at work. But the word “victimized” was one word used by an upset North Street area neighbor and that emotion seems more appropriate. 

Those concerned about the Dominion’s tree-trimming and palmetto-removing program have largely felt that way as they were told time and again, “the trimming is required for line safety.” 

And the City Council and staff believe their hands are tied to do anything about it. 

The Dominion folks did offer one possible bit of hope for those who support the idea, in that, per the franchise agreement with the city, a pot of money – in Beaufort’s case, $60 million – has been collected from customers for use on locally selected projects, including UNDERGROUND WIRING.

The spokesmen made it clear they’re not fans of UNDERGROUND WIRING but noted it’s already been done as part of the Boundary Street redevelopment project, where it cost approximately $3 million for one mile of work. The fund was also used for the Greenlawn redevelopment project which was an extension of the Boundary Street plan.

A third project, along Allison Road, is already “in the queue” for when that widening project eventually happens.

Dominion did say they plan to work with other utilities to remove some of the “vacant” poles around town that have unused lines attached.

Mayor Stephen Murray said he’d like to see that happen.

Did you know?

BEAUFORT – Interesting (yet scary) traffic trivia:

A recent report about anticipated Memorial Day traffic onto Hilton Head Island stated 62,524 vehicles crossed over the bridges onto the island, coming and going, on Friday before Memorial Day 2020.

Compare that to the daily traffic count on Friday, May 21, the week BEFORE Memorial Day weekend, THIS YEAR, when the number was 68,593.

And, if anyone wants to bet you on which is higher, the new Harbor River Bridge or the McTeer Bridge, they’re the same – 65 feet.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.

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