GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – An official statement from the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) today has given relief to the Boardtown road community, through Highway 515, who have been vocally opposing the major project’s plans to build on the road.
The community and its leaders often stated that they supported the project and agreed with it being a needed upgrade, but wanted the project relocated to a different location. Many specifically stated Highway 515 as an alternative.
Even GTC said they had originally looked at 515 but were turned down.
Today, with the aid of House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, the GTC said, “Following months of extensive analysis at the request of the local community, Georgia Transmission has determined that Highway 515 is a viable corridor for the Whitepath Electric Reliability Project. Conversations are underway with the Georgia Department of Transportation to develop a proposed route for the project adjacent to Highway 515 that meets engineering and safety constraints.”
GTC gave specific thanks to Ralston and Gooch and the community saying the result was a culmination of efforts and input from “community partners including citizens, civic organizations, and elected officials.”
As plans continue for the official path the 46 kV sub-transmission line will take, a preliminary path has already been laid out in consultation with Speaker Ralston. GTC said that this new path involves purchasing easements to minimize the impact of the line on rights of way owned by both the public and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
In late September of 2020, GTC said they were beginning “an extensive look” into the 515 and another alternative path. Just over seven months later, they are confirming this path as viable.
The opposition started last year after a series of public information meetings showed a pathway leading down Boardtown road after GTC had already ruled out the 515 path and one along a CSX rail line.
GTC said the Highway 515 path was denied due to limitations including a request denial by GDOT.
Now, with the path approved, House Speaker Ralston said, “This outcome demonstrates that workable solutions can be achieved when parties come together in cooperative spirit for the betterment of the community. Sen. Gooch and I are pleased that our partners at Georgia Transmission and Amicalola EMC have done their due diligence in service to the community and are now able to take the next step in ensuring reliable electricity for households and businesses in Gilmer County.”
Ralston was brought in on the project discussion after Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners drafted letters to him and Gooch last year. Citizens flooded into the county’s monthly meeting asking for help in discussions to find an alternative path from Boardtown. With the board’s letters and offers to set up additional meetings for citizens, they pledged to aid in what ways they could.
With the confirmation of this alternative path’s viability, Georgia Transmission Vice President of Project Services John Reese said, “Georgia Transmission is proud that we were able to honor our word to the community while fulfilling our mission of helping to keep the lights on for Gilmer County. Although considerable work remains to be done we appreciate the active engagement of Amicalola EMC and its members, and the leadership of Speaker Ralston and Senator Gooch, in identifying a solution to the critical electric reliability need in the area.”
According to GTC’s statement, they will soon begin undertaking the process necessary for “advancing the route along Highway 515.” This process involves finalizing the route, contacting property owners in the area, and more public meetings.
For citizens wishing to continue following this project, Georgia Transmission will offer updates on the project page of their site.