LEWISTON — Talking about the trees and what having them gone will mean isn’t enough, said homeowner Elaine DuMais of 228 Dyer Road.
You have to see the difference.
“It’s really hard to understand, otherwise,” DuMais told city councilors Monday night.
DuMais’ Dyer Road backyard is ringed with trees — old hardwoods and pines on either side and a grove of apple trees below. All of the trees and part of a rock wall would be removed under a power line expansion plan proposed by Central Maine Power Co. They’d be replaced with huge towers as the utility’s power reliability upgrade winds its way through Lewiston.
“All but 10 trees would be removed,” DuMais said. But under an alternative plan DuMais and a handful of residents from all over the city are proposing, two-thirds would remain.
That plan, which changes the line’s path slightly to accommodate Lewiston homes, would cost the utility an estimated $3.5 million extra, according to its estimates. Councilors are scheduled to vote July 14 on a tax incentive for the utility, returning that much
DuMais and three other homeowners in the Ferry Road/Dyer Road neighborhood hosted a tour for Lewiston councilors Monday night, to show them what the original CMP plan would do and how the residents’ alternative differs.
“Obviously, none of us want the expansion here at all,” DuMais said. “Even with the changes, we’ll still see our homes’ values drop. But it would be better.”
Called the Maine Power Reliability Program, CMP’s proposal calls for upgrading a nearly 40-year-old swath of power lines. The lines start in Eliot and pass through central Maine in Litchfield, Monmouth, Leeds, Greene, Lewiston and a corner of Auburn at the Durham line. They stop in Orrington, where they connect to lines from Canada.
In some places, lines would be rebuilt or replaced. In other places, lines would be added, including 115-kilovolt and 345-kilovolt lines. The 345-kilovolt poles, not common in Maine, are wider than traditional power-line towers and, depending on location, are about 20 to 25 feet taller than the lower-voltage poles.
The project would affect about 4,000 property abutters statewide. If approved, it could take three to five years to complete. Opponents say the 345-kilovolt lines buzz and emit an electromagnetic field they fear could cause cancer. Abutters say the new lines would lower their property values.
DuMais and other residents have been meeting since January, poring over maps and proposing solutions. DuMais said she’s still waiting to hear a cost proposal from CMP, but estimates the residents’ latest proposal would cost an additional $3.5 million.
Councilors said earlier this month they’d favor using some additional tax revenue the utility is expected to pay the city to help finance the group’s suggestions, as long as they’re not too expensive. CMP is expected to pay the city an additional $1.5 million in property taxes each year once the upgrade is complete.
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