The Campobello land where Duke Energy once proposed building a substation is now permanently protected.
In 2015, Duke had proposed building a power substation on nearly 200 acres in Campobello and constructing a 40-mile transmission line that would have cut through the mountains in the Upstate and western North Carolina.
The proposal ignited a firestorm of protest, leading Duke to scrap the plans and opt to build smaller gas units at its Asheville plant that negated the need for the substation and transmission line.
TBP Properties LLC, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, has donated the property to The Nature Conservancy, which signed a conservation easement with Upstate Forever to ensure the land will remain rural in perpetuity, according to a press release. As part of the agreement, The Nature Conservancy may subdivide the 198.54 acres into three home sites.
The Campobello land, which fronts Scenic Highway 11 and Interstate 26, has traditionally been used as pastureland. The property is adjacent to Smith Chapel Baptist Church, a congregation founded by former slave John Henry “Buck” Smith in 1900.
Duke had said it needed to build a new 650-megawatt power plant, substation and transmission line to meet the growing demand for electricity in the Asheville region. The utility said during the past four decades, electricity use has more than doubled in and around the Asheville area and peak demand has increased nearly four-fold. Duke said peak demand during the winters of 2014 and 2015 was 30 percent higher than in 2013. Duke said over the next decade, population and business growth was expected to increase overall power demand in nine Western North Carolina counties by more than 15 percent.
In August 2015, more than 800 opponents attended a South Carolina Public Service Commission public hearing, a rare occurrence because Duke hadn’t formally filed its plan to the agency. Duke received more than 9,000 comments on its plan. Opponents said the line would devastate tourism.
“By permanently protecting this property with a conservation easement, we preserve the scenic view shed from Highway 11, Interstate 26 and the church, minimize impervious surface to maintain water quality, and provide for the traditional agricultural and equestrian uses of the land,” said Scott Park, Upstate Forever Land Trust Program Director.
Clark Gillespy, president of Duke Energy South Carolina, said, “After receiving feedback from the community through our public input process, we revised our plan to strike the balance of addressing concerns from the public, minimizing environmental impact, and meeting the power generation needs of the area. We are pleased that the end result will be a benefit to the community.”
Mark Robertson, state director for The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina, said the deal is a win-win: “The rural character of Campobello will be maintained, while the resale of the property will generate needed funds to protect more land in the Upstate.”
Upstate Forever also weighed in. “Business and conservation go hand in hand and this is a great example of how the two can partner for the greater good,” said Andrea Cooper, Upstate Forever executive director. “We are thrilled with this outcome. The permanent protection of this site is a big win for the community and for the conservation of our natural resources. Additionally, Highway 11 deserves protection as a national scenic byway and entrance to our beloved blue ridge escarpment.”