Franklin Countys First News

Jay board reviews transmission project details; Mass. approval anticipated

Chair Terry Bergeron and Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere hold up a map showing the proposed transmission line moving through Jay.

JAY - Representatives of the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line briefed the Board of Selectpersons Monday evening on the status of the $950 million project, part of which is expected to run through Jay.

The NECEC project, one of 46 proposals submitted in request by Massachusetts to bring up to 9.45 terawatts of clean energy power into the state, was selected by that state earlier this year. Central Maine Power, a subsidiary of AVANGRID, Inc., has proposed running a direct current transmission line through western Maine to connect the Quebec electric grid with a substation in Lewiston. The project is designed to bring 1,200 megawatts of power from a Canadian hydroelectric company, Hydro-Québec, to the New England grid.

The proposed transmission line.

The transmission line would create roughly 50 miles of new corridor, according to Thorn Dickinson, the project manager and the CMP vice president of business development. The route is designed to thread in between the Highpeaks and Moosehead Lake areas. CMP either owns or otherwise controls all of the land the line would run through, with Dickinson describing the terrain as having been "heavily logged" in the past.

The line would cross the Kennebec River in the West Forks region. Dickinson said that CMP had worked for two years to develop a mitigation package, working with the Western Mountains & Rivers Corp. CMP previously announced that investment would include transferring land along the Dead River to the WM&RC, a nonprofit focused on conservation of rivers in western Maine, to create a visitor center and support the creation of new hiking trails. Dickinson said that there were separate mitigation packages depending on whether the transmission line went over or under the Kennebec River.

The package also includes installing fiber optic cable in Franklin and Somerset County along Route 201 and 27. That installation would help residents and businesses along those routes to have access to broadband.

Dickinson noted that the project would create roughly 1,700 jobs, most of them over a five-year period during construction.

CMP has pegged the tax impact for Maine communities at roughly $18 million in increased tax revenue. For Jay, Selectperson Judy Diaz noted, the roughly seven miles of transmission lines represented $400,000 in additional tax value.

Dickinson also addressed the economic development packages included within two competing projects, the New Hampshire Northern Pass project and TDI's Clean Power Link under Lake Champlain. Those projects, which included $200 million and $400 million for their respective states in what Dickinson termed mitigation funds, have been held up by some as evidence that CMP has not offered enough to local communities. Instead, Dickinson said, those large amounts of money represented the impact of those projects.

"We felt we did a very good job of selecting these areas," Dickinson said, adding that the mitigation package that had been introduced in respect to WM&RC was fair for the potential impact of NECEC.

Where an existing transmission corridor exists, Dickinson said, such as the 20-odd miles of lines in Franklin County, a second set of single poles would be built to carry the DC line. The poles would vary in height, averaging roughly 90 feet. When possible, Dickinson said, CMP would attempt to minimize the visual impact by attempting to match surrounding trees. Corridors, typically 150 feet in width, would be widened a varying amount depending on terrain. In sensitive areas, such as near the Appalachian Trail, the increased width would be low as 70 feet. The poles shouldn't be confused with larger, lattice-like structures that carry a greater capacity than 220 kilovolts, Dickinson said.

"We try and put the structure in a height and size that matches the surrounding trees," he said.

In Jay, the line would move from the Bean's Corner area south through the town in line with Route 133 and into Livermore Falls. In Franklin County, the project would move through Industry, New Sharon, Farmington, Wilton, Chesterville and Jay. Farmington and Jay would have the biggest sections.

Steve Bien, a Jay resident, questioned the environmental impact of the project. The transmission line would have a visual impact, he said, as well as potentially fragmenting habitats. He also questioned if the transmission of the Quebec hydro power represented a true reduction in greenhouse gases, or if other, non-green energy sources would fill the void, leading to a "paper reduction."

Dickinson said that other regions using the hydro power prior to NECEC would have to continue to meet regional standards for power generation; typically this includes some element of green energy. Quebec had added roughly 1,500 mW of hydro power within the past five years, Dickinson said, and the NECEC's development and introduction of hydro into New England would benefit the hydro market.

The project is anticipated to clear fewer than 1,000 acres for new lines. Some impact for species such as brook trout could be avoided by crossing steams overhead, Elizabeth Swain, department manager for Power Engineers, said. The project would also include culverts to improve fish passages in the area.

Dickinson said that CMP was in the final stages of negotiations with Massachusetts and hoped to announce the signing of contract agreements in the next couple days. The Maine permitting process will include consideration by the Public Utilities Commission and hearings before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That permitting process could last until the end of 2018 or into 2019, Dickinson said.

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9 Responses »

  1. They make it sound wonderful.

    If you agree with this kind of progress in our remote pristine areas then you will be happy to hear about some more stuff going on that involves areas not too far from here. Changes are being proposed to the Land Use Planning Commission's (LUPC) ''one-mile rule of adjacency'. Here is a link to the map of the areas which will be open for development if this passes...close to 2 million acres in Maine's Unorganized Territories.

    Meanwhile, the LUPC is also considering a proposal from J.D. Irving LTD to rezone 51,015 remote pristine acres in the Fish River Chain of Lakes region up in Aroostook County to allow 330 new house lots including a massive resort development next to very remote Square Lake.

    Think all these proposals are being pushed through while LePage is still in office?

  2. And this is at least will travel along lines that are already there. AS I travel up route in Jay those ugly windmills that are on the horizon look much more out of place and interfere with the scenery. I guess it is all in what one wants to look at.

  3. Your neighbors are selling you out up here. Maine, the way life is.

  4. Why is no one mentioning the health hazards associated with these power lines? This is a terrible idea that benefits no one in Maine.

  5. Does anyone realize this desecration of our wilderness does NOTHING for the State of Maine. We in Maine are already well above the guidelines for renewable energy put forth by the Baldacci regime as they did not bother to tell you HYDRO power is among the CLEANEST, STEADIEST, MOST RELIABLE form of electrical energy in existence and they didn't include it in the "renewable" mix. Funny isn't it? And we have LOTS of it here in Maine, and it has been here more than 100+ years.There no hazards with hydro, no waste from hydro, no fecklessness form hydro, and the power lines are already established for them. Baldacci didn't even count it. He must have had another agenda in mind . . . . ah yes, a Democrat spawned NWO collection of our cash by taxes and rates.

    All this is to make a few very wealthy people, including Angus King and John Baldacci even wealthier, not to save us a cent or provide short term out of state jobs. It is to get into your pockets and destroy the wilderness.

    Don't believe these numbers they throw out, they just make them up to sound good.

  6. It sure would be nice if we could get a map of the proposed line that actually let us see some greater detail about the route. When you enlarge this one it really is a bit vague.

  7. First try didn’t get printed but why shouldn’t cmp resolve their billing issues before any other negotiations?
    Cut my power bill in half instead of doubling it and I might support this fiasco. Wait, I’m still smarter than that.....

  8. Maine: bought and sold, from election laws to power generation...

  9. I have Madison Elec. In 20 years my biggest bill ( with a chest freezer and 2 A.C.s running around the clock ) I hear CMP is horrible.was $82.15