By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL - Riverton area residents should soon see an end to lengthy power outages.
Front Royal took another step forward this week to building a substation to benefit the area hit by crippling outages. Plans call for the construction of the Riverton substation on Va. 55 at its intersection with Jenny Wren Drive.
The Warren County Planning Commission on Wednesday endorsed plans for the Riverton substation after holding a public hearing on the matter. The town sought a determination that the proposed substation complies with the county's Comprehensive Plan. Chairman Mark Bower explained that while they did not have to hold the hearing the commission did so because of concerns raised with the substation's visibility.
The plan now goes to the Board of Supervisors for its approval.
No one spoke at the public hearing but commission members asked about the town's plans to shield the substation with trees and other landscaping elements. Front Royal Director of Planning and Zoning Jeremy Camp and county Planning Director Taryn Logan answered the panel's questions.
County employees indicated that the site remains "quite visible" on the scenic byway and recommended the town use screening to limit the impact on the view.
Front Royal Department of Energy Services Director Joseph Waltz said Friday the town needed to build the substation to serve the Riverton area because flooding had caused outages in the past.
A 1996 incident left approximately 500 customers without power for five days, Waltz noted. The most recent incident occurred in the winter of 2010. It affected underground cables, Waltz recalled. The two outages lasted approximately eight hours each.
"That basically motivated us to figure out a solution because they are basically isolated between the two rivers," Waltz said. "The best solution was to get another delivery point to that other side to get a dual feed to that area."
The town began looking at alternative solutions to bring an electrical feed to the customers in the troubled area. A substation served as the best and least costly solution. Locating land within town limits posed a challenge, Waltz said.
"We're hoping right now if we can get dirt moving this summer that we'll have the substation ready by spring of next year," Waltz said.
Officials estimate the project will cost approximately $1.2 million, much of which the town already has spent through land acquisition and preliminary work, Waltz said.
The new substation, at roughly half the size of others operated by the town, also should accommodate future growth in Riverton and improve the stability of the area's electrical grid, according to information from the town.
The Warren County Planning Commission decided at a previous meeting to hold the public hearing. At that point Waltz' department staff spoke with residents in the vicinity about the planned substation and the reasons behind the project.
"The main concern with everybody is just the screening," Waltz said.
The substation site sits next to two, large electrical power lines, but is also in the town's entrance corridor, Waltz noted.
The plans show the substation sitting on a pad covering 80 feet by 175 feet and bordered by a chain-link fence fitted with slats that screen the equipment. The county asked for a certain amount of screening for the substation. The entire 1.4-acre site will have two entrances off Strasburg Road until construction is complete.
The plans call for a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees planted between the substation and Strasburg Road. But as officials explained to the commission and as Waltz said Friday, the land already provides some natural buffers.
"The contour of the land and everything with us trying to keep as much vegetation [on site,] I really don't think it's going to be an eyesore or much of an impact visually," Waltz said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org