The State Corporation Commission is reviewing whether Dominion Energy could extend a substation project that has frustrated, irked, and baffled residents to 2026.
Hearing officer Ann Berkebile said Thursday (June 10) that she will issue a report following public testimony in which residents detailed their frustrations over a project to rebuild the Idylwood Substation on Shreve Road.
“The first thing I want to note is how disheartening it is to be contemplating construction in our community until December 2026,” said Lori Jeffrey, president of Holly Crest Community Association, further saying delays and excuses from Dominion have occurred throughout the project and residents have learned to not accept the company’s statements at face value.
Dominion didn’t respond Friday to a request for comment. Attorneys for the company as well as county and other parties didn’t question witnesses when given the opportunity at Thursday’s hearing. Fairfax County didn’t address a media inquiry by press time.
Approved by the county in 2015 and the SCC in September 2017, the project calls for rebuilding, relocating, and replacing facilities and lines in and around the existing substation.
Dominion has said the proposed enhancements will “provide seamless, reliable power to Fairfax County, the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax and support the energy needs of the Metrorail.”
In justifying the extension, the utility company has cited the complexity of the project as well as lengthier permitting processes than expected and acknowledged that it underestimated parts of the timeline, among other factors.
“The Company is cognizant of the amount of time this Project has been in process and the strains the Project has placed on the surrounding community,” Dominion said in a March filing with the state detailing why it’s seeking a six-year extension.
During Thursday’s hearing, Collin Agee, a Holly Manor Drive resident, said work on the project started in 2016, five years ago.
The 2017 application approved by the state had the ability for an extension — provided it got the SCC’s approval. A May 31, 2020 deadline is currently suspended, according to the commission, a regulatory entity that has authority over utilities.
Tensions between Dominion and local interests have been developing, though, with the company proposing a new timetable to finish by Dec. 31, 2026. The project cost has also increased from around $107 million to $159 million as of February, according to the company.
The conflict continued at Thursday’s hearing, which will help the three-member commission make a determination. Hearing officer reports typically have a 21-day comment period by the formal parties in a case, according to the commission.
For homeowners like Andrew Laine and his wife, who plan to retire and relocate, that’s concerning. Laine said they previously rented their home for three years during the time the project began, and construction work behind their home led their family to say they wouldn’t have rented there if they had known about the extent of the project.
“Dominion has not been upfront with anything,” Laine said.
The three driving factors of the project are addressing power reliability regulations, increasing operational efficiency, and maximizing space for potential expansion, according to Dominion.
Dominion notes the project is located at two major overheard transmission corridors, an electrical transmission hub, and major distribution substation.
“Continuing to terminate lines and add load to the Idylwood Substation with [its current] arrangement would increase the severity of a breaker failure event,” the company said previously.
The rearrangement’s additional space could “accommodate potential future transmission terminations,” but there are no future transmission terminations and transformation planned at this time, Dominion said in the March SCC filing.
According to a Dominion project website, the existing Idylwood Station is on a 7.15-acre lot and the “existing equipment footprint” is 3.99 acres. The company seeks to reduce that equipment footprint to be around 2 acres.
Catarina Couto, the previous president of the Holly Crest Community Association, told Tysons Reporter that Dominion presented a project in 2013 with a much smaller footprint than what they were going to do. Couto said residents kept pushing for more information, and the company wasn’t forthright and honest with the neighborhood.
She asked the state at Thursday’s hearing to help neighbors in keeping the company accountable, arguing that 2026 was too long of a timetable.
“At this point, we have lost trust in Dominion’s ability to provide us with anything that is of tangible or valid information,” Cuoto said. “They have continuously pushed the agenda, they have received various…extensions, and they have caused our neighborhood great, great grief.”
All Town of Vienna government offices and facilities will be closed tomorrow (Thursday) as the D.C. region braces for a winter storm that could deliver up to six inches of snow and a quarter inch of ice.
The town-wide closure extends to the Vienna Community Center, and all parks and recreation classes and programs have been canceled, along with Thursday trash pick-up services.
A Board of Architectural Review meeting that was scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow has been postponed.
“This decision was necessary to ensure the safety of Town employees and because it is anticipated that all staff hands will be needed for snow removal,” the Town said in a statement.
This decision was necessary to ensure the safety of Town employees and because it is anticipated that all staff hands will be needed for snow removal. (Trash will be collected next Thursday, February 25, as regularly scheduled). 2/3
— Town of Vienna, VA (@TownofViennaVA) February 17, 2021
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area starting at 3 a.m. tomorrow and lasting until 6 a.m. Friday.
Metro will operate buses on a moderate snow service plan, while maintaining regular weekday rail operations, though de-icer trains and heaters will be utilized.
Fairfax Connector will offer full service tomorrow, but some routes will be detoured and could be further modified or suspended based on road conditions. A full list of missed stops can be found on the transit service’s website.
Prepare now! Approaching ice storm could be worse than Saturday’s which caused 290,000 outages! @DominionEnergy is preparing for MULTI-DAY outages across Va.
📌Stock extra batteries, medicine, food etc. Report outages to https://t.co/VN1BaqzNtd or our DE app.@WTOP @fox5dc https://t.co/agYVXOAtEF
— Peggy Fox (@PeggyDomEnergy) February 17, 2021
Updated 4:30 p.m. (Sept.11) — Dominion Energy plans to send the plans to the SCC for review by Oct. 1.
Dominion Energy has proposed a new underground electric transmission line to keep up with growing demand.
The 230-kilowatt line would replace an existing above-ground power line from Tyco Road to the area southwest of Leesburg Pike and Spring Hill Road, according to a presentation at last night’s community engagement meeting.
“There are currently over 60 million square feet of pending and approved zoning applications in Tysons,” documentation from Dominion Energy said. “This rapid growth requires updated infrastructure to meet the increased demand for energy.”
The upcoming substations will support mixed-use developments such as Dominion Square East, Dominion Square West and Sunburst Developments.
In regards to the upcoming development The View, a spokesperson said at the meeting that Dominion Energy is working with project developers and construction crews to create a timeline since the two projects will intersect.
During public comment at the meeting, people expressed concerned about delays for commuters which might be caused by the project.
“The plan will be to work closely with VDOT to maintain the traffic in the area,” a spokesperson said, adding that the majority of work will likely be done on off-hours, in order to avoid heavy traffic. “If we do have to close two lanes, the work will be done at night.”
If approved, Dominion Energy expects the project to be complete by 2025, a spokesperson said, adding that the company wants to send the plans to the State Corporation Commission by Oct. 1 for review.
Image courtesy Dominion Energy
A power outage is impacting hundreds of Dominion Energy customers between Wolf Trap and Leesburg Pike.
Dominion’s power outage map says that 575 customers are affected by the outage, which spans from the McLean Bible Church down past the Dulles Toll Road. Dominion expects power to be returned sometime between 7-10 p.m.
Fairfax County put out a traffic advisory around 3:40 p.m. warning people to expect delays at Leesburg Pike and Trap Road. Police tweeted that Leesburg Pike is currently closed in both directions.
Downed lines from a broken pole are behind the road closure and power outage.
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) June 17, 2020
Map via Dominion Energy
The two candidates vying for the Providence District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors faced off last night at the Providence District Community Center.
The League of Women Voters, who hosted the debate, encouraged attendees to submit questions for Democratic Dalia Palchik and Republican Eric Jones, and the candidates didn’t hesitate to disagree when it came to the hot-button issues of the evening.
They compared thoughts on the importance of census data, budgets, sanctuary counties, immigration, renewable energy, panhandling and firearm regulation throughout the evening. Here are some highlights from the debate:
Affordable Housing and a Rising Cost of Living
When it comes to the panhandling in Fairfax County, Jones said people struggling financially in the area should move elsewhere in the country where the cost of living is lower, like Ohio.
“It’s very expensive to live here. there are other places where it’s not so expensive to live,” Jones said. “To some degree, it is simply a choice [on where to live.]”
Palchik took another approach. “I support that we took a step back and said, ‘No, we are not going to criminalize panhandling,'” she said, adding that the county should work to ensure there is enough affordable housing and job security.
On the topic of affordable housing, Palchik said she is looking into coordinating with faith-based organizations to expand affordable housing options, especially for seniors.
Dalia said she wants to focus on fighting for fair wages for county employees, while Jones said he would rethinking policies for zoning and regulation to help small businesses.
Immigration and the Census
Immigration and the U.S. Census were popular topics during the debate.
Palchik said she was pleased when the citizenship question was removed from the census, saying that it encourages more participation. Without responses accurately representing the population of the district, the county would lose out on tax revenue that benefits the community, she said.
“We still have families who fear coming to school to sending their kids to preschool or going to a food pantry, because they are afraid we are collaborating and sharing their information with police,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jones said he believes undocumented immigrants are a danger to the community. “I am especially against sanctuary countries,” he said. “These are especially harmful to our legal immigrants.”
During his time with the U.S. State Department, Jones said he conducted interviews for the immigration process and granted thousands of people citizenship or permanent resident status.
“I believe we should cooperate completely with federal authorities,” he said.
One of the largest issues the candidates clashed on was the implementation of renewable energy. Palchik seemed to be in full support while Jones said the cost would outweigh the benefits.
“I think the so-called New Green Deal is unrealistic,” Jones said, referring to the Green New Deal. “You cannot run the Metro system on wind power, solar power and batteries.”
Instead, he told the audience that he believes in natural gas and nuclear power.
Palchik shifted the conversation, noting her endorsement by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups around the area. Palchik pointed to her time on the Fairfax County School Board, where she launched a joint environmental taskforce with the school board, students and Board of Supervisors.
She said that, if elected, she will be spending time in Richmond working to eliminate solar energy roadblocks.
New Republican Candidate
Jones was a new face for voters. After candidate Paul Bolon’s death in August, Jones was chosen as the new conservative candidate to run against Palchik.
“I’m running to give voters a choice in Providence District,” Jones said during his opening statement. “I wish my friend Bolon was here today.”
Palchik gave her respects after the debate. “I want to thank Mr. Jones for stepping up, I know it was a tragedy.”
The election is on Nov. 5.
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) Work may start on a new underground power line running through Tysons before the end of the year.
The existing load on power lines from the Tysons and McLean areas is expected to exceed 300 megawatts by 2022, according to Dominion Energy. The new power line will keep Dominion under the limits.
To make sure there’s enough power, Dominion is building an additional power source to avoid violating mandatory standards.
At a meeting last night (Tuesday) at Kilmer Middle School, Dominion officials said that construction is set to kick off in November or December — depending on the weather and when permits get approved — for the Idylwood-Tysons 230 kilovolt (kV) Project.
The project will add a new 4-mile-long transmission line underground, running under the W&OD Trail by I-66 and I-495 before heading up Gallows Road to International Drive in Tysons .
Commuters and pedestrians can expect lane closures along Gallows Road and International Drive in Tysons when construction starts.
Specific dates for the construction schedule and closures have not been determined yet, an engineer for the project told Tysons Reporter. People can expect an interactive online map, which will show what’s been completed and what’s under construction.
“People who live and work in the area will most likely be impacted by the construction,” Peggy Fox, a Dominion spokesperson, said. “We do not expect to interrupt service to our electric customers.”
Currently, the bidding process is underway for the project’s contractor. The final cost will be determined once the contractor is selected — the estimated cost right now is roughly $120 million.
The State Corporation Commission approved the project last fall.
The project is expected to be completed by late 2022, with rehabilitation work going into 2023.
Dominion Energy is making repairs and installing equipment in the Town of Vienna to prevent a power surge like the one that affected several neighborhoods shortly after midnight last Tuesday (July 2).
“According to our information from Dominion, the surge was caused when, shortly after midnight on July 2, an old cross-arm broke causing a high voltage line to dip into a low voltage line,” Lynne Coan, a spokeswoman for the Town of Vienna, told Tysons Reporter.
When the cross-arm broke, the high voltage line dipped into a low voltage line.
Dominion Energy crews repaired the cross-arm and have plans to install “overvoltage arresters” to prevent similar events in the future, she said.
In a Facebook post on Friday (July 5), the Town of Vienna wrote that the southwest area of town experienced “overvoltage or an extreme electrical surge similar to a lightning strike.”
Coan said that the surge affected more than 100 homes, including the King Crest, Vienna Woods and Willow Estates neighborhoods.
Several people claiming to be victims of the power surge wrote under the town’s Facebook post about how the surge impacted them.
“We lost one of our A/C units, our refrigerator/freezer, humidifier, a TV, about four outlets and our washer,” one person wrote. “We were out on vacation last week and came back to this mess.”
Another wrote that the surge “blew a breaker fuse and my $100 Keurig wouldn’t work.”
Tysons Reporter has not heard back from Dominion Energy about questions including how strong the surge was.
Residents who wish to file a claim for damaged electrical appliances can call 1-866-366-4357.