Community in uproar over butchering live oaks

May 18 20:21 2017 Print This Article

One of the most common “big ideas” in the West Ashley Master plan workshops was burying electrical power lines. The Riverland Terrace neighborhood in James Island recently arranged a meeting involving local elected officials, administrators and officials with South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G) to discuss strategies to bury the lines. The neighborhood is lined with live oak trees estimated to be 150 years old, and extensive tree-trimming is currently required to maintain the above-ground power lines.

Charleston City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson noted that Riverland Terrace’s live oak canopy is a mark of distinction and that preserving the canopy is vital to the community. A realtor estimated that the canopy adds about $30,000 to the neighborhood’s home values. Burying the lines is estimated to cost $4 Million, although it would eliminate the long-term cost of tree-trimming.

About 80% of Riverland Terrace homes are in unincorporated James Island Service District with the remainder located in the City of Charleston. Charleston imposes a 5% franchise fee on SCE & G, which passes it on to its customers. The city sets aside 10% of its franchise fee revenue for burying power lines. It has funded burying projects in The Crescent in West Ashley and Country Club I on James Island.

A different funding source will need to be determined to bury power lines in unincorporated neighborhoods like Riverland Terrace and the Dupont-Wappoo neighborhoods along Savannah Highway in West Ashley, which don’t pay franchise fees. ¬†State Senator Sandy Senn negotiated a deal that would give gas tax donor counties like Charleston 50% more revenue from the state gas tax, effective July 1. That revenue could be used as a funding source for bury power lines in the unincorporated areas of Charleston County.