The initial route would have run near one of the North Boundary greenway trails. The city is now planning on building the lines on a route up Novus Drive.
Foundation for Global Sustainability President Wolf Naegeli (also a Hellbender Press editorial board member and contributor), wrote that the route as originally proposed would “obliterate the scenic value of the greenway.”
“As far as I can tell, this pretty much avoids environmental impacts,” said Oak Ridge City Council member Ellen Smith, a critic of the earlier route, in an interview with Hellbender Press. She said the federal Department of Energy found no issues with it when giving the city land for the substation the route would use.
“The fact that there was public concern was a big deal,” Smith said. “Council certainly and staff were aware there were a lot of people who valued the current situation,” she said regarding the North Boundary Greenway as it is currently enjoyed by hikers and cyclists. The route follows a gravel road through woodland areas including the Black Oak Ridge Conservation Easement and past the back of the Horizon Center.
“It was conversations. It was letters. It was people communicating they had a concern however they could do so,” Smith said. As Hellbender Press has reported, groups with concern about the earlier route included Advocates for Oak Ridge reservation, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning and the Sierra Club Harvey Broome Group, all of which are environmental groups centered in East Tennessee. The Foundation for Global Sustainability, which publishes Hellbender Press, supported the establishment of AFORR as a nonprofit corporation in 1999 and became AFORR’s first organizational member.
The city intends the lines to provide power to the Horizon Center, an area set aside for light industry and offices. Much of the land is vacant at present. Specifically, the lines will supply the planned new TRISO-X nuclear fuel facility.
Watson explained the new route in a memo at a City Council meeting.
DOE, he said, approved an easement to the city of Oak Ridge on a property adjacent to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) transmission line, south of State Route 95 and directly across from the Horizon Center so that the city can build a new substation for the route. Watson explained the route would start from the proposed substation, cross State Route 95 and go along the median on Novus Drive towards Lot 6 inside the Horizon Center.