Community in uproar over butchering live oaks

by John Steinberger | May 18, 2017 8:21 pm

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. ┬áState 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.

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