ThumbsUp – Verner Farm Transmission Lines
Facebook is coming! And to provide the energy needed by their data center campus, Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) is building the Verner Farms Substation at Davis Crossroads. The Verner Farms Substation will be linked to Facebook’s ThumbsUp Substation via a roughly six-mile transmission line.
Davis Crossroads is on the 2004 Morgan County Greenprint, and on the 2017 Morgan County Greenprint, which also notes a number of historic structures in the area, including the Davis House, the Davis-Estes House, the Davis Cemetery, and the Davis Academy. Its scenic beauty is indisputable. That scenic value was protected by two conservation easements donated by the Jenkins family fifteen years ago. Its agricultural value was also protected by those easements and by a third easement donated by the Verner family as part of their Centennial Family Farm.
GTC’s initial route for the transmission lines showed the lines going through the conservation easements, directly impacting the scenic value of the historic crossroads. The Conservancy offered to help GTC find an alternative route that would not negatively affect the conservation easements or the historic structures in the area. We have identified that alternative route and shared it with GTC.
This is what we know and don’t know:
- GTC has not seriously considered the alternative route the Conservancy recommended, which would avoid all the conservation land, all the historic structures, and minimizes the visual impact on the scenic views for the general public.
- GTC has not conducted a formal needs assessment to determine the need for this infrastructure.
- GTC was aware of the conservation easements before they purchased the substation property and before they routed the lines through the conservation easements. This intentional targeting of conservation land and willingness to mar a protected public resource is an abhorrent business practice, showing callous disregard for private land ownership and community will. Such indifference must be a result of their having condemnation power, which allows them to do as they please.
- The poles will be 80 – 120 feet high, concrete monopoles, spaced 500-700 feet apart. The substation will be 75 feet from Davis Academy Road.
- The GA-AL Land Trust holds the two Jenkins conservation easements and has contacted GTC to enforce the conservation easements. Conservation easements permanently protect land and are held by a third-party enforcement party (in this case the GA-AL Land Trust).
- NRCS holds the third easement (Verner easement) and has been contacted by GTC.
- There are approximately twelve historic resources in GTC’s project area that are eligible for the National Register and, therefore, are protected through the Section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act.
- The Conservancy has provided GTC with documentation about the historic resources in the area. We have communicated with the landowners, the land trust, and the NRCS about what they can each do to protect this historic crossroads.
- The Conservancy contacted the Rural Utility Service and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation to request that they hold this project to their highest standard of review, given that clearly the historic and cultural resources, conservation lands, and aesthetics of this area are unique and atypical of Georgia’s Piedmont.
- GTC’s timeline has slowed because of our efforts to document historic resources they did not include in their preliminary project report.
- The Conservancy will continue to monitor this situation and is actively working to remedy it.