Three massive power lines cut across the James River.

photo by: Sam Kittner

11 Most Endangered Historic Places

James River

  • Location: Jamestown, Virginia

The James River flows through a collection of nationally recognized cultural, historic, and natural resources in Virginia’s Historic Triangle—a region that receives more than 3.5 million visitors annually.

A part of the nation’s first nationally designated water trail, the waterway has been the site of significant historical events that stretch back before the founding of the United States, such as:

  • The first permanent English colony in America at Jamestown in 1607;
  • The convening of the first elected legislative assembly in 1619;
  • The arrival of the first Africans in Virginia that same year due to the transatlantic slave trade;
  • An important transportation route during the Revolutionary War and Battle of Yorktown;
  • And the site of multiple Civil War battles, including the Battle of the Ironclads.

With its connection to America’s early history—and its close relationship with the region’s environmental and economic wellbeing—James River helps tell the story of our nation. Yet in 2013, Dominion Energy requested a permit to construct a transmission line across the James River from Surry to Skiffes Creek that would permanently harm the integrity of this cultural landscape. The National Trust became deeply involved with the James River when we included it on that year’s America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List and designated it a National Treasure one year later.

In spring 2015, the Down to the Wire campaign inspired more than 27,000 advocates in Virginia and around the United States to sign a petition asking Dominion Energy to pursue alternative solutions that would meet the region’s power needs while protecting invaluable historic sites along the James River.

Despite the public outcry, the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit to construct the transmission line in July 2017 without preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Preparing an EIS would have required the Corps to review alternatives more thoroughly to ensure that the line’s impacts on the James River’s cultural and natural resources were fully considered.

The National Trust and Preservation Virginia filed a lawsuit in federal district court in 2017, alleging that the Corps violated federal law in issuing the permit. While the litigation was pending, Dominion began construction on the project. In May 2018, the district court issued a negative decision, which we appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Construction continued throughout the litigation.

The transmission line was completed and energized on February 26, 2019, but the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a decision three days later that found the Corps had violated federal law and ordered the Corps to prepare an EIS. But despite this decisive win for historic preservation and the James River, Dominion isn’t yet ready to give up the fight.

Together with our partners, the National Trust plans to advocate for an energy solution that preserves the historic James River and force Dominion to tear down their unlawful transmission towers.


Support an alternative energy solution and deconstruct Dominion Energy’s high voltage transmission line with 17 towers.

Support our work to save places that matter.


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