The Associated Press – RESACA, Ga

A planned power line that will run through a Civil War battlefield has thrown another obstacle in front of preservationists who have spent years trying to turn the land into a historic park.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency that serves much of north Georgia, has announced that the 15.2-mile line will go up through the Resaca battle site by 2008. Officials have said the line, stretching from Dalton to Calhoun, is necessary to accommodate the area’s growing electricity demands, which went up 42 percent in the past decade.

But preservationists cringe at the thought of 80-foot-tall steel poles looming over the site where 160,000 Confederate and Union soldiers clashed in May 1864 and hundreds were buried.

TVA officials have not yet decided exactly where the lines will run, prompting the Friends of the Resaca Battlefield Inc. to launch a letter-writing and e-mail campaign urging them to choose the least intrusive path possible.

"It’s like a doctor saying, ‘You have cancer, but we don’t know where it is on your body,’" said Keith Beason, the preservationist group’s president. "I’m anxious."

Steve Pitt, the TVA’s lead engineer on the project, said the official public comment period for the project is over, but that he’s still getting e-mails and telephone calls about preserving the battlefield.

Pitt said TVA hired consultants to advise it about the historic importance of the area, and that it would try to minimize the impact on the battlefield.

"I have a feeling everything is going to be OK," he said, adding that a decision on the route would be made soon.

Beason, however, was doubtful that the large public utility truly understood the site’s historical importance.

"Are they really listening, or are they just going through the motions?" Beason said.

The power lines are just another problem in the long effort to turn the Battle of Resaca site into a historic park.

Since 2000, the state spent about $2 million for more than 500 acres of land, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. State officials had said they planned to spend millions more building a visitors center and museum, as part of an effort to save Georgia’s vanishing Civil War battlefields, but state budget cuts halted those plans.

Supporters of the preservation effort then got some good news last fall, when Gordon County and the Friends of the Resaca Battlefield bought a 65-acre tract that they hoped to have open for tourists soon after, but the TVA plan has stalled things again.

"It’s been eight years, twice as long as the war itself," said the group’s treasurer, Douglas Marvel. "And the battle continues."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press

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