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Despite a sharp decline in electricity use in the Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation’s (REMC) service territory in recent years—including a 12 percent drop in residential consumption—REMC leaders insist they must build a power line through two miles of one the state’s largest Registered Significant Natural Heritage Areas to satisfy purportedly growing demand.
REMC is pushing to build a major high-voltage line through Box Creek Wilderness, an untrammeled 5,800-acre forested tract that links the Blue Ridge and the South Mountains, just east of Asheville.
Box Creek is a magnificent landscape of maturing and interior forests and pristine stream habitats. North Carolina conservationist Tim Sweeney bought this land to protect it from development and to let it flourish in its natural state.
REMC officials say they need the new line to meet increased demand for electricity in the rural service area, despite the fact that data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration* show that from 2010-2012, REMC’s residential demand fell by 12 percent and that the total demand from all REMC customers (including business and commercial users) fell by nearly 8 percent.
Meanwhile, the average REMC household spent $1,607 on electricity in 2011. The statewide average in 2011 was $1,417, meaning that families served by REMC paid over 13 percent more for electricity than the average state resident in 2011.
REMC customers, who are member-owners of the co-op utility, will further bear an estimated $5.8 million to install this line through the rugged terrain of Box Creek Wilderness.
Nonetheless, REMC has filed a petition in Rutherford County Superior Court for an easement to move ahead with the installation of this line through the heart of Box Creek Wilderness.
To date, more than 1,000 concerned citizens have signed a petition to stop construction of this unnecessary and destructive line and to protect Box Creek for generations to come.
More information, including maps and informational videos about Box Creek Wilderness and the petition, can be viewed at http://www.boxcreekwilderness.com.