The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit to Central Maine Power Co. for construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission corridor project through western Maine.

The environmental permit is one of the last major regulatory hurdles for the $1 billion project, which now only needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a presidential permit to cross the Canadian border. That permit would come from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Maine Land Use Planning Commission and Public Utilities Commission already have issued their own respective permits for the project, but opponents of the corridor are seeking to have the PUC’s approval overturned via a voter referendum on the November ballot.

In a news release Monday, the DEP said it issued the permit after two-and-a-half years of technical review, including extended evidentiary and public hearings. In addition, it released a draft of the permit for public comment on March 13. The comment period was later extended to account for the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

The DEP permit contains conditions designed to minimize the project’s environmental impact and requires extensive land conservation and habitat protection plans, it said. The final permit retains all the protections from the draft permit.

The corridor project includes an electric transmission line from the Quebec border in Beattie Township that would deliver hydroelectric power to a new converter station in Lewiston, as well as several upgrades to CMP’s existing electrical transmission network between Lewiston and Pownal, Windsor and Wiscasset, and in Cumberland.

Roughly two-thirds of the 145-mile transmission line would be built along CMP’s existing transmission corridor. The remainder of the line, known as Segment 1, would run through commercial timberland in western Somerset and Franklin counties.

CMP already has committed tens of millions of dollars to the project despite the looming referendum vote. It has invested in land purchases, design and engineering, as well as various contracts for construction work and materials.

Obtaining the DEP permit is a significant step forward for the corridor project, said Thorn Dickinson, president and CEO of NECEC Transmission LLC, the CMP sister company building the transmission line.

“In our original proposal we worked hard to develop a project that provided robust mitigation measures to protect the environment and through this permitting process, we now have made an exceedingly good project even better for Maine,” Dickinson said.

The Portland-based Conservation Law Foundation issued a statement Monday in support of the DEP permit and its environmental restrictions.

“Building new ways to deliver low-carbon energy to our region is a critical piece of tackling the climate crisis,” said Phelps Turner, senior attorney at the foundation. “DEP was absolutely right to impose significant environmental conditions on this project and ensure that it does not harm critical wildlife areas. (The CMP corridor) will allow New England to retire dirty fossil fuel plants in the coming years, which is a win for our health and our climate.”

The Natural Resources Council of Maine issued a statement criticizing DEP for issuing the permit, saying the corridor project would cause more harm than good.

“Today’s DEP permit fails to address the fact that CMP’s proposed transmission corridor would result in no real reduction in global carbon pollution while inflicting enormous harm on Maine’s North Woods and the local communities and Mainers who depend on it for their livelihoods,” it said. “This project remains a bad deal for Maine.”

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