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The Solomons Civic Association decided to reach out to state legislators about the effects new 150-foot galvanized transmission line poles will have throughout the town center.

During their meeting Monday night, after discussion of the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s Southern Maryland Reliability Project, the members decided the next step would be to speak with state delegates to see if they could help lessen the visual effects of the planned poles.

“We should be working the delegates,” Don McDougall, a Solomons resident and member of the association, told other members Monday night. “… They had reports stating [the poles] were going underground. They also had photographs of renderings of what the poles would look like that are nothing what the poles really look like. So, I think we have a legitimate beef. It’s just a matter of who’s going to listen to the beef.”

McDougall and Solomons Civic Association President Don Mueller told members they are also working on getting other communities involved that are affected, such as White Sands in Lusby.

The project will create a 28-mile transmission line loop through all three Southern Maryland counties and will connect the southern part of Calvert County to Lexington Park by building a new station at Sollers Wharf and Pardoe roads and constructing an underwater line below the Patuxent River bottom to Hewitt Road. The first phase of the two-phase project will connect Sollers Wharf to the Holland Cliff station in Huntingtown, and the current 69-kilovolt transmission line poles will be replaced with 230-kv line pole. The second phase will connect the Sollers Wharf station to the Hewitt Road station.

Work in Solomons is set to begin late this year or in early 2014, Mueller said.

At a meeting in November between Solomons residents and SMECO, SMECO presented several alternatives to the 150-foot poles along a 1.5-mile stretch of Solomons from the intersection of Dowell Road and Newtown Road to just north of the Solomons Island Cemetery. SMECO concluded the most feasible and reasonable option was to stick with implementing the poles.

Mueller and McDougall explained to residents Monday night the poles have to be 150 feet tall to handle the wires and accommodate the 69-kv lines from the existing poles. They said the poles are higher in Solomons than in Chancellor’s Run in St. Mary’s County because of the 69-kv lines.

The Solomons transition structure, an H-frame built of two 150-feet poles, will be constructed just north of the Solomons Island Cemetery, where the lines will go underground. The location of the transition structure is where the current lines go underground.

“That ‘H,’ I think, is gonna be really poor. It’s probably gonna be one of the biggest eyesores of the whole thing,” Mueller said.

During the November meeting, an alternative to put the entire Solomons portion underground was discussed. SMECO said during that meeting that the company would need to obtain a new right of way and would have significant permitting issues because the line would travel through wetlands. The cost of construction for the 1.5-mile portion would also increase from $3.3 million to $35 million — the reason SMECO said the most reasonable option was to construct the poles.

Mueller said this estimate included a second 230-kv line “for future growth.” He said they need to figure out why the estimate included a second line that “isn’t being used” and might not be for many years.

In addition, SMECO would need to obtain additional rights of way to put lines underground, including one in front of the U.S. Navy Recreation Center — something SMECO said during the November discussion may be difficult, according to Mueller and McDougall. However, Mueller and McDougall said they met with the commander of the recreation center and he told them he would be willing to work with SMECO in negotiating the right of way.

“We have to figure out how to move forward,” Mueller said Monday night. “And we need to act fast.”

In other business, Calvert County Principal Planner Patricia Haddon and Community Designer Will Selman told the SCA that draft sign regulations and sign guidelines will be released in the next two to three months and public hearings will soon follow. The regulations, Haddon said, are the aspects that can be regulated by law, such as size, setback and height. Selman explained the guidelines he’s drafting are for the more subjective things, like font and color. The county as a whole will have guidelines and each town center, with its own “community” feel, will have guidelines as well.

Haddon said anyone wishing to send in comments as a group by Feb. 12 to the ad hoc committee discussing the draft regulations may do so by contacting her at 410-535-1600, ext. 2631.

aharrison@somdnews.com