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Former substation location donated to conservancy group

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Nearly 200 acres of land near Campobello in northern Spartanburg County was once at the center of a debate between environmental groups and an environmental giant over plans to expand transmission lines in the northern Upstate.

Now, the once-proposed site for a substation has been donated to an environmental group which said it signed an easement to protect the land from future development.

This is part of the land near Campobello donated by Duke Energy to The Nature Conservancy. The land had been considered for a substation as part of a larger modernization project that was later revamped by Duke. The new plan eliminated the need for the substation. (Photo provided)Duke Energy donated the land — located along Highway 11 with additional frontage on I-26 — to The Nature Conservancy and that group signed an easement with Upstate Forever that keeps the land rural in perpetuity. Under the agreement, The Nature Conservancy can subdivide the property into three home lots.

“This is a win-win,” said Mark Robertson, state director for The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina, in a news release. “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.”

In 2015, Duke Energy proposed its Western Carolinas Modernization plan that called for additional transmission lines to connect from two new natural gas-fired power plant units in Asheville with a substation that was to be located at the Campobello site.

Conservation groups like Upstate Forever and residents of nearby Landrum protested the project suggesting adding more power lines to the region would be a detriment to the rural environment. Horse farms have come into prominence in the region following the completion of the Tryon International Equestrian Center located in nearby Polk County, N.C.

Following public discussion, Duke officials elected to abandon the expansion plans and opt for still retiring its coal-fired plant in Asheville, but constructing two smaller gas-fired units which eliminated the need for 45 additional miles of transmission lines and the substation at Campobello.

“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,” said Clark Gillespy, president of Duke Energy South Carolina, in the release. “We are pleased that the end result will be a benefit to the community.”

Historically, the Campobello property sits adjacent to the Smith Chapel Baptist Church and cemetery which was founded by former slave John Henry “Buck” Smith around 1900.

Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever, said the work between Duke Energy and conservation groups “is a great example of how the two can partner for the greater good.”

“We are thrilled with this outcome,” Cooper said, in an email. “The permanent protection of this site is a big win for the community and the conservation of our natural resources.”

She added that Highway 11 “deserves protection as a national scenic byway and entrance to our beloved Blue Ridge escarpment.”

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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