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Land to be cleared for power lines
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Clearing is expected to begin later this month on a nonprofit cooperative’s efforts to string 6.2 miles of new, updated power lines across North Hall County, including a small part of Lake Lanier.

“We’ve surveyed (the route) and we’re working with the property owners,” said Craig A. Heighton, public affairs director for Tucker-based Georgia Transmission.

The $5.5 million project is otherwise on track, with construction set to start early next year on 115,000-volt lines between Leach Road and an area off the lake between Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road and Riverside and Island drives.

The plan is to replace the outdated wooden structures with more durable steel and concrete ones.

The lines in place now date to the 1950s, or before Lake Lanier was built and at a time when farms and pastures filled the landscape.

In the decades since, neighborhoods have sprung up throughout the area.

“Unfortunately, there are some areas where vegetation has grown up in the (area around the power line),” Heighton said during a June helicopter flyover of the area. “And if there are trees growing up into the line, that’s a huge safety concern.”

Georgia Transmission, a nonprofit cooperative owned by 39 electric membership corporations, allows many uses in the 125-foot-wide easement, such as roads, home gardens and farm plots. Vegetation not growing taller than 10-15 feet is OK.

The flyover revealed an assortment of items in the power line easement, such as swimming pools and trampolines, but also patches of erosion and thick areas of tree and plant growth.

“Some of (the property owners) had restricted vegetation in the right of way that will have to be removed,” Heighton said in an interview last week. “We are working with those property owners to mitigate that loss as best we can.”

Clearing is likely to start closer to the Leach Road substation and move toward the lake.

“It will probably take a few months (to complete),” Heighton said. “And, of course, there are a lot of variables, such as rain.”

Heavy rain over the summer didn’t affect preliminary project work, he added.

“As far as the need for the project, this will ensure that we have a reliable source to meet the electrical demands of the entire Gainesville community,” Heighton said. “We understand it’s a change and will be disrupting some land, but we will be working to keep that at a minimum.”

Heighton has said the project is set to finish in June, or just before another hot Georgia summer has homeowners tugging at their thermostats.

“We’ll work with EMC planners on load forecasts, and so, the line needs to be in place to meet that need,” Heighton said.

Georgia Transmission works with local governments in doing line replacements. Because the project involves a crossing on Lake Lanier at Thompson Bridge Road, the company must involve the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Road closings might be needed during parts of the project, especially across heavily traveled Ga. 60, Heighton said.

“There’ll be a traffic management plan in place and we’ll try to do that (work) in off-peak hours, to make sure there is minimal disruption to traffic flow,” he said.

The utility would coordinate that effort with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The DOT “works with utility companies continually because their infrastructure is in our rights of way,” district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

The Leach-Thompson Bridge roads line is one half of a larger line that Georgia Transmission is upgrading.

The other half runs between the Dawson Forest area, near Sporting Hill Drive in Dawson County, and Leach Road, a 6-mile stretch.

The entire line was built by Georgia Power. Last year, Georgia Transmission bought the line from Dalton Utilities, Heighton said.

Those three utilities, along with Atlanta-based MEAG Power, own and maintain the electricity grid in Georgia, which comprises 17,192 miles of transmission lines.

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