CHESTERVILLE — Voters on Thursday joined those from other towns in Western Maine in opposing a high-voltage transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power.

Voters also authorized selectmen to send a letter of opposition to the project.

In the hour preceding the vote, residents heard from supporters and opponents of the New England Clean Energy Connect project.

The $950 million project involves building a 145-mile transmission line to deliver power generated by Hydro-Québec in Quebec to users in Massachusetts. The line through Maine would begin in Beattie Township in Franklin County and extend east and south into Somerset, Androscoggin and Cumberland counties. One-sixth of a mile would pass through Chesterville, crossing Route 156.

Avangrid Vice President of Business Development Thorn Dickenson said the Massachusetts Legislature is the reason the project is moving forward. Ninety-two miles of the line already exist with 53 miles of line constructed on land owned by CMP.

“This project doesn’t require eminent domain,” Dickenson said. “We own 100 percent of the right of way.”

He said CMP would need municipal planning boards to approve permits for the project. If the permits are denied, appeals can be made to the Maine Public Utilities Commission which has issued the project a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity.

CMP’s NECEC Permitting Manager Gerry Mirabile said changes to the project have been made to mitigate environmental impacts. They include:

  • Boring under the Kennebec River instead of crossing it.
  • Expanding buffers 100 feet around all streams.
  • Vegetation tapering to soften the visual edge.
  • Maintaining deer wintering yards.
  • Reducing the pipe structure in some areas to make them less visible.
  • Donating 2,800 acres for permanent vegetation.
  • Relocated transmission line in Greene to avoid a rare orchid.

Darryl Wood of New Sharon, who opposes the project, questioned the number of permanent jobs available for Maine people. He said people in the biomass industry would be affected by the power line.

“Seventy-five to 100 Re–Energy jobs in Stratton and Livermore Falls lost compared to 38 (CMP) jobs statewide is concerning to me,” Wood said.

Former state Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton, who opposes the project said, “The $258 million settlement offered by CMP means $0.37 per month for every Maine resident. CMP will earn $5 million per month and Hydro-Québec $40 million.”

He said the biomass industry cannot participate in the new line.

“As energy producers fall out, what happens? Energy costs increase; it’s the law of supply,” Saviello said.

Resident Paul Stancioff said the project would “increase Maine’s energy security.”

“The more important point is about climate change and electric power,” he said. “If we want to do anything about climate change and still live the way we do, our energy will be from renewable sources and will be primarily in the form of electricity. This power line is a small part of the solution.”

Another resident asked about public access.

Dickinson said snowmobile, ATV and hunting access would continue.

Wood said guide organizations and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine are against the project.

“In 100 years, what will the impact be for tourism and brook trout fishing?” Wood asked. “Maine is one of the last places in the Northeast with brook trout habitats. Will people come for the beauty of the area or avoid it (once it becomes a cold New Jersey)?”

 

 


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