RUMFORD — Fourteen River Valley area residents testified on Central Maine Power’s proposed multimillion dollar power line upgrade at Tuesday night’s public witness hearing held at Mountain Valley High School before three Public Utilities Commission members.

The majority of the testimony was against the $13 million to $14 million project that would widen the current 34.5-kilovolt power line corridor between Rumford and Roxbury by 150 feet and install 8 miles of utility poles topped with 115-kilovolt transmission line.

The power company says the upgrade and a new substation in Roxbury is necessary to channel electricity to be generated next year when the $120 million Record Hill Wind LLC wind farm is built atop Roxbury ridges.

Thirteen testified that the project isn’t necessary, and if built, will substantially degrade ecosystems and streams along the corridor. People also worried aloud that CMP ratepayers and taxpayers would end up footing some or all of the bill.

“Do we need a larger than needed conductor to be paid by ratepayers?” Monique Aniel of Mexico asked while testifying. “If Record Hill Wind cannot pay, the line should not be built.”

Aniel said she was also worried about possible biological effects and cancers that have been attributed to electrical and electromagnetic fields associated with power lines.

Anthony DeSalle of Rumford told the PUC to “use its common sense,” because Maine cannot afford a rate increase in electricity.

“Wind energy is dictated to us by the government,” DeSalle said. “It is not a solution to our problem and it will not keep competitive prices down.”

Linda Kuras of Roxbury labeled PUC officials as “pawns in the big game.”

“We don’t want to be another experiment in the way that Mars Hill was,” Kuras said. “This electricity is not going to benefit our area; it’s meant to be a pipeline through our state, and I don’t know why Western Maine should be considered the armpit of the state of Maine to take this kind of industry where it would never be tolerated in more wealthier areas of the coast.”

Roxbury resident Colleen Martineau said the upgrade would be a visual nightmare and contribute to the loss of the area’s rural nature, because herbicides would be used annually to prevent undergrowth in the corridor.

She also worried about health problems attributed to electromagnetic fields.

“I have two autistic grandchildren and we’re very fearful,” Martineau said.

Len Greaney of Rumford said he failed to see why the area needs another electricity generator in wind farms when Rumford already has three such underused facilities with its hydropower plant, a natural gas plant and NewPage paper mill’s cogen plant.

Barbara Arsenault of Rumford said the power line upgrade is being sought for the coming build-out of industrial wind farms “that will forever change our River Valley.”

“The PUC needs to do what is right for the ratepayers in Maine, and that is to deny this project,” she said.

Dan McKay of Dixfield urged the PUC to delay the project a year until the Roxbury wind farm is actually built.

Cathy Mattson, an organic farmer in Roxbury, worried about the proposed upgrade’s effect on wildlife. She said it would ruin the aesthetic beauty of the area and tourism.

After the hearing, Record Hill Wind co-owner Angus King, who didn’t testify, said people were wrong to assume that ratepayers will foot all or some of the bill.

“There will be no cost to the ratepayers,” King said. “It’s my understanding that we’re going to have to pay the full cost of $14 million.”

What Record Hill Wind won’t have to pay for — and CMP will — he said, is thicker wire that CMP wants to use for the project. King said CMP will foot that $150,000 cost.

Additionally, King said Record Hill Wind doesn’t want to build the new transmission line now.

“We have no desire to build the line upgrade until the wind project is built,” King said.

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Inside Mountain Valley High School’s Muskie Auditorium in Rumford, Roxbury resident Colleen Martineau testifies at Tuesday night’s Public Utilities Commission hearing about Central Maine Power’s proposal to build an 8-mile-long powerline upgrade and corridor expansion between Roxbury and Rumford. The project will cost Roxbury wind farm developer Record Hill Wind LLC $13 million to $14 million. Record Hill co-owner Angus King, Maine’s former governor, listens at top left.

Public Utilities Commission hearing officer James Buckley, left, and Chairwoman Sharon M. Reishus listen to testimony at Tuesday night’s public hearing in Rumford on Central Maine Power’s proposed powerline upgrade. Not shown is Commissioner Vendean V. Vafiades who also heard comments.

This Central Maine Power map shows, at left center, where the company’s proposed 8-mile-long transmission line upgrade and expansion will go from Rumford to Roxbury. A new substation will be built to handle electricity to be generated next year by the Record Hill Wind LLC wind far atop Roxbury peaks. The line is being upgraded from 34.5 kilovolts to 115 kilovolts in a project that will cost Record Hill Wind $13 million to $14 million.

At Tuesday night’s Public Utilities Commission hearing in Rumford, Dan McKay of Dixfield testifies that there isn’t any reason for Central Maine Power to build its proposed power line upgrade between a Roxbury wind farm project and Rumford. He urged the PUC to reject the proposal, saying CMP doesn’t need to install more wiring for “such an inefficient power source.”

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