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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dominion plans to bury some power lines in Columbia Pines

Sue Hollcroft of Dominion explains the process for burying power lines. [Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley]
By Bob Kovacs

About 10 residents of the Columbia Pines neighborhood in Annandale attended a presentation by Dominion Virginia Power March 18 on the company’s plans to replace overhead power lines with underground lines on Brenda Lane, Bruce Lane, and a section of Terrace Drive between Murray Lane and Larchmont Drive. 

Sue Hollcroft, a communications coordinator with Dominion, talked about the improved electric service reliability that will result from the company’s Strategic Underground Program. A state law encouraging the improvement of power reliability is driving the effort to bury power lines.

Fifty percent of all long power outages are caused by damage to 20 percent of the power lines, Hollcroft told the audience at Mason Crest Elementary School. These 20 percent include the distribution lines along neighborhood streets. Those so-called tap lines carry 19,000 volts and are the most vulnerable to damage from trees and storms. The company plans to remove those overhead wires and replace them with underground lines.

The work by Dominion is at no cost to homeowners, although electric rates will be adjusted to spread the cost among customers across the commonwealth.

All work that damages yards and plantings will be restored by Dominion Virginia. In some cases where there are obstacles to buried power lines, such as patios and garages, homeowners might have to pay for some of the work.

The objective of this project is to improve power reliability and does not include other utilities, such as telephone, Internet, and cable TV. Dominion Virginia Power is talking with Verizon and Cox about burying all lines at the same time, but there is no assurance that will happen.

Dominion Virginia Power will require homeowners to sign underground easements in order for the work to proceed. All homeowners on a street must agree; if one homeowner doesn’t sign an easement agreement, that street will not have its power lines buried.


  1. "if one homeowner doesn’t sign an easement agreement, that street will not have its power lines buried...."

    At the March 11 meeting held at Belvedere School, the Dominion reps suggested that there may be some ways to work around residents who opt not to bury their lines. They weren't specific, but someone made a reference to using other existing easements.

    There was no discussion about homeowners having to pay for some of the work. I suspect this may refer to dealing with obstacles encountered in "undergrounding" power lines that connect to individual meters. So, I recommend homeowners consider that issue carefully before signing their easements.

  2. I will sign the easement as soon as I understand the full scope of the project inside my property. They were very vague about what will be done between the curb and the meter and I heard some (all?) people won't get it all underground (old lines to the property would not be buried). Also, seems like the cable providers are not joining this project, which means not all wires will be buried. I would sign up with a cable provider who joins this project so we can get rid of all overhead lines.

    1. At Belevede, they weren't certain if Cox, Verizon, et al. would participate in this project. My impression is that you'll be undergrounded if the route between your meter and the street isn't obstructed. I'm less concerned about that, however, because I can prune the the limbs of my trees away from my overhead line. It's what's going on along the street that continues to cause all the trouble.