The Larrabee Road substation in Lewiston would be improved under the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect project. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON – With municipal revenue likely to fall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, city officials are looking with hope to the controversial New England Clean Energy Connect project that could pour millions of additional dollars into the city’s coffers.

The extra property tax money from a new substation “would be a lifesaver for the city of Lewiston,” Mayor Mark Cayer told members of a poverty awareness committee Wednesday.

He called the $7 million or more of additional tax revenue the project would create “a game changer for our community” because it would provide the cash to address key social issues while simultaneously allowing Lewiston to reduce the burden on residents he said are overtaxed today.

Lewiston Tax Assessor Bill Healey figured Central Maine Power’s $350 million worth of improvements in the city would bring in more than $7 million in the first year. The Maine Center for Business and Economic Research estimated it might reach $8.4 million annually.

In short, the city would likely see at least 10% more revenue because of the new substation and related electrical infrastructure improvements.

That’s particularly helpful in a period when city officials have estimated Lewiston may see a decrease in revenue of $1.6 million in the next fiscal  year because of  the impact of the pandemic. Even so, they anticipate a small decrease in the tax rate for the first time since 2008.

Thorn Dickinson, the chief executive officer and president of NECEC Transmission LLC, said in a prepared statement that “Lewiston in particular will enjoy millions of dollars of increased tax revenue, which is critical as we experience negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Former Gov. Paul LePage has touted the $1 billion project’s impact on Maine jobs as well, insisting that critics ought to pay more attention to the immediate help the project would provide for unemployed workers and communities in western Maine.

The Spanish-owned utility company aims to bring Quebec hydropower along a new 145-mile transmission line that mostly follows an existing corridor in Maine until it reaches Lewiston, the project’s hub.

A new converter station on Merrill Road would transform the direct current sent from dams in Quebec into the alternating current required for most of New England’s electrical needs.

The converter station would be tied through a new 1.6-mile transmission line to the existing Larrabee Road substation, which would be upgraded to handle more of the stepped-down voltage flowing in from the Merrill Road site.

The power itself would be paid for by Massachusetts ratepayers and flow into the New England grid, which includes much of Maine. Experts say it would help hold down the cost of electricity in the Pine Tree State.

Opponents of the project say it would carve up Maine’s vast forest, create unsightly towers and bolster Hydropower Quebec’s destruction of crucial environmental resources north of the St. Lawrence River.

The company that wants to build it argues the project would help stem climate change by saving 3 million metric tons of carbon annually, the equivalent of taking 700,000 vehicles off the road each year for decades to come.

It aims to have the project done by December 2022.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.