Red flashing lights on new Central Maine Power transmission towers in Woolwich and Bath are seen from Brown’s Point Road in Bowdoinham. . Darcie Moore / The Times Record

WOOLWICH — Central Maine Power next week will start installing a radar system on two transmission towers near Chops Point to control lights on the towers that continue to pester local residents.

The radar system will sit on top of the towers and turn on the lights only when an aircraft is within 1,000 feet of the towers, according to Catharine Hartnett, CMP spokesperson. When the aircraft is out of range, the lights will turn off.

The company has approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, but is still waiting on a permit from the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC permit will allow the radar to transmit a radio signal to detect aircraft, according to Hartnett.

“This permit is in process but has been challenged by the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, so we cannot predict when it will come through,” Hartnett wrote in an email to The Times Record.

Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, a Richmond-based nonprofit that advocates for the Merrymeeting Bay ecosystem, could not be reached for comment Tuesday to say why they’re challenging the radar installation.

The tower lights were installed near the mouth of the Kennebec River last summer. Neighbors told The Times Record they were never told the lights, which flash white during the day and turn red at night, would be installed. Fog and clouds and the reflection off the water make the flashes of red through the night more prominent, according to Jenny Burch of Woolwich, who can see both towers from her home.


Burch said she’s looking forward to the radar begin installed because the tower lights have malfunctioned twice, causing them to continue flashing white at night instead of turning red, making it difficult for her to sleep.

Hartnett said CMP has documented the two malfunctions and “replaced a piece of equipment the first time and suspect that lightning may have played a role in the second instance.”

One tower sits in Bath and the other on Chop Point School property, carrying lines across Chops Point in Woolwich. The point forms a peninsula in Merrymeeting Bay between Woolwich and Bowdoinham. The lights can be seen from Merrymeeting Bay, as far away as Pleasant Point in Topsham and Brown’s Point Road in Bowdoinham.

According to Hartnett, the two previous transmission towers on either side of the river were more than 80 years old and needed to be replaced. Those original 195-foot towers were permitted decades ago when the FAA didn’t require lights to warn passing aircraft. The old towers were replaced with 240-foot towers that had to meet FAA regulations, Harnett said.

The new towers needed to be 30 feet taller and farther apart than the original towers to account for heavier wires that sag lower and pose a risk to aircraft.

There are small regional airports in the area, including in Brunswick, Wiscasset and Augusta. Combined, the airports operate 17,000 combined landings and takeoffs annually, according to Clyde Pittman, director of engineering at Federal Airways and Airspace.


Woolwich Selectwoman Allison Hepler said she would’ve preferred if CMP approached local municipalities prior to replacing the towers.

“I wish there had been a more transparent process where all the replacement options could’ve been laid out for us,” said Hepler. “There are a lot of smart and creative people in this area and I think we could’ve come up with a better solution.”

“No one is pleased that CMP just rolled this project out without consulting the towns and they could easily be hung out to dry over that,” said Woolwich resident Curt Fish.

Fish said he can see the lights from the towers from his house and they make them difficult for himself and his family to sleep.

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