Appalachian Power is now owner and operator of the electric distribution system at Breaks Interstate Park, following execution of a transfer agreement on Tuesday.
The park is located in the Jefferson National Forest between Haysi, Virginia, and Elkhorn City, Kentucky. Much of its 5,000 acres are in Dickenson County, and it is one of only two jointly administered interstate parks in the U.S.
“The new relationship with our long-time friends at Breaks will provide an additional level of commitment to year-round power distribution reliability there,” Chris Beam, Appalachian Power’s president and chief operating officer, said in a written statement. “Our people are dedicated to the safe and efficient delivery of power to many different kinds of customers every day and we are happy to take on this new location.”
Virginia legislators Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, and Del. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, approached Appalachian Power in 2017 about providing the park’s distribution service, and both assisted in gaining legislative and regulatory approvals. Until now, the power distribution has been operated and maintained by park personnel.
“The completion of this transfer is great news for Breaks Interstate Park,” Pillion said in a written statement. “These upgrades and improvements will strengthen the safety and resiliency of this critical infrastructure, resulting in a direct benefit to the park, its staff, and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who enjoy Breaks each year.”
Much of the system was constructed in the 1950s, and Appalachian will replace a number of distribution poles and cable, power transformers and underground lines. Appalachian’s initial investment is expected to be about $600,000.
Work is expected to begin later this month and finish by the end of this year, according to the statement.
“The Breaks has been the only state park in Virginia, Kentucky and perhaps the nation that owned and maintained its electric infrastructure,” said Austin Bradley, Breaks Park superintendent. “We welcome this transfer of ownership to Appalachian and look forward to our staff now focusing completely on helping our visitors receive a positive and educational experience at the park.”
Bradley noted that his staff has cleared vegetation around distribution lines and equipment to meet Appalachian Power standards and has readied the area for construction crews.