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Utility Contractor Cuts Through Protected Woods

Posted October 3, 2007

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— A contractor for Raleigh-based Progress Energy mistakenly cut a path through some protected woods in Moore County, angering the property owners and environmentalists.

It happened as part of a plan by Progress Energy to run a new 230-kilovolt transmission line from a generating station in Richmond County to West End in Moore County.

The power company hired SEPI Engineering Group, based in Raleigh, to examine a location off N.C. Highway 211 for suitable access to the lines.

The proposed path ran through Jesse Wimberly’s property along Hoffman Road, including 34 acres protected by a conservation easement in which Wimberly agrees not to develop the land and its taxable value remains lower. The land is blanketed with the signature tree of the Sandhills, the long-leaf pine.

Wimberly and his neighboring landowners learned of the utility's proposal in the summer of 2006. This year, he received a letter saying that a crew would conduct a survey of the area.

“I sat down with them. I said this is a protected area,” Wimberly said.

He said the power company assured him that the survey crew would not compromise his land-conservation efforts. But in late August, a neighbor alerted him that workers were using heavy equipment to slice a 15-foot wide swath through the woods.

“They just put on a big grinding machine and just moved through the woods grinding everything in sight,” Wimberly said.

The workers also blazed a path through Mike Wilson’s land.

“It’s supposedly about the third-largest tract of long-leaf pines left in Moore County,” Wilson said. “I was very mad, very mad, because I hadn’t been told that was coming.”

Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes said that during the site-selection process, the power company was not made aware that the Wimberly tract was a conservation easement.

“We would not normally find out about a conservation easement until we get to the process of doing title searches, and sometimes that is done simultaneously with the center-line survey,” Hughes said.

The company is considering ways to identify easements earlier in the process, but state law does not prevent building power lines in those areas, Hughes said.

“We certainly apologize to Mr. Wimberly, and we are working to address the issue and mitigate the damage,” he said.

Progress Energy is working with Wimberly to put the proposed route somewhere else on his property, away from the conservation area. But Wimberly said the power line doesn’t belong anywhere near his land. He questions the sincerity of the power company’s apology.

“What I’m suggesting is they already knew this is what they wanted to do, and they were just trying to make me feel good,” Wimberly said.

68 Comments

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  • JohnnyMalaria Oct 4, 2007

    No, over development is ruining this country. Western society has lost the plot about how to live WITH our environment in a way that will ensure our longevity. Of course, if you only give a flip about you and your immediate "needs" and couldn't care less about where we will be in the future then continue your each-man-for-himself rightwing selfish ways.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Oct 4, 2007

    The environmentalists are actually anti-growth and anti-prosperity activists. They won't be happy until we are all living in the dark.

    As they said on Star Trek, the needs of the many out weight the needs of the few.

    The NIMBY's are ruining this country. They are ones behind the lack of highway construction over the last 40 years in this country that's led to the traffic congestion that we currently suffer through.

  • Travised Oct 4, 2007

    Ghimmy, comparing a Bobcat and a VW bug is a laugh. A cat is over 3500 pounds. a Bug is what, 1200?

    Yes I've operated the Cat's.. They make a HUGE impact on the ground they are operated on. There was no reason to bring them in if it was a "survey" operaton. Why do you need to move dirt around.

  • ghimmy47 Oct 4, 2007

    For the purpose of clarity and to avoid offending true conservationists, an "environmentalist" is considered to be a wild-eyed crackpot tree-hugger. Take note WRAL.

  • spotted horse rider Oct 4, 2007

    Clackymcsplatter. . . go back home, yankee.

  • clackymcsplatter Oct 4, 2007

    awww boo-hoo ,poor environmentalists

  • oldrebel Oct 4, 2007

    Maybe if Progress would just quit running new lines and keep the status quo, then all the trees would be saved and the disgruntled property owners could celebrate with their brie and vino in the dark.

  • Panther Oct 4, 2007

    A 15’ wide path hu? If Mr. Wimberly knew that the power company was doing a survey, did he think that they were out there for sunshine and fresh air? Sounds like there is more to this story than Mr. Wimberly is letting on. After all we are only talking pine tree’s here, what is more important electricity or trees to protect the (RCW) Woodpecker? ( WRAL does not understand that the RCW is a bird not somehing vulgar)

  • FragmentFour Oct 4, 2007

    WRAL--“We would not normally find out about a conservation easement until we get to the process of doing title searches, and sometimes that is done simultaneously with the center-line survey,” Hughes said.

    Well, duh! Maybe it's past time to change THAT process! Proving that Progress Energy is lying can be tough, but slapping it with a very stiff fine for a combination of neglegence and indifference might keep the behavior in check for a while.

  • 2MuchPork4Just1Fork Oct 4, 2007

    "Why," Tanuki grumbled, "would they fell trees but leave men standing? Trees are [darn] right more useful than people, and everything in the world knows that except people." (taken from Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins)

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