CATSKILL – A proposed major power line project from Canada to New York City that was slated to run lengthwise under the Hudson River – including when passing between Greene and Columbia counties – has had its route changed as part of an environmental negotiation agreement, and will now instead run underground through Greene County, along railroad rights-of-way.
The Champlain-Hudson Power Express (CHPE) is a High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission line intended to deliver 1,000 Megawatts of hydro and wind power to the greater Metropolitan area, and has been in the works for more than three years.
On Monday, its parent company, Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI), and involved environmental advocates and agencies announced that a mitigation plan which was under negotiation since November of 2010 has been agreed upon, and the change in route is part of that proposed settlement.
The settlement still needs the approval of the state Public Service Commission (PSC), and at least one hearing on it will now be in Greene County because of the route change.
Originally – after coming down underneath Lake Champlain – the line was going to skirt around Albany by being buried underground along the CSX railroad tracks, and then enter the Hudson River at Coeymans.
Under the new plan, it will instead stay running underground with the tracks, and traverse Greene County from north to south.
The three nonprofits signing off on the settlement proposal, in addition to a multitude of state agencies, are Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, and the NYS Council of Trout Unlimited.
The settlement calls for a 35-year, $117 million environmental trust fund for habitat restoration and study to serve all three areas – the Hudson River, the New York City area waters, and Lake Champlain.
Scenic Hudson Environmental Advocacy Attorney Hayley Carlock said Monday the settlement package offers strong benefits to all the waterways involved, and changes to the project itself provide added benefit.
“The project has been changed for the better,” Carlock said. “The basic idea is the same, but in addition to the mitigation fund, there have been some pretty dramatic changes to the route.”
Carlock said those changes are to “avoid a number of significant habitats in the river,” and that one of them is the Greene County change.
The intent is also to apparently avoid disturbing the river’s sediment pattern in the reaches immediately south of Albany, ostensibly to ensure a safe underwater working distance from any north-of-Albany contaminants, including PCBs, that may or may not be present.
“It (the line) will be entering the Hudson River around Cementon,” Carlock said, and indicated that necessary easements to get from the railroad bed back down to the shoreline may have already been acquired or are currently under acquisition.
The specific property location to make that connection was not available at press time, but Carlock indicated it is not via any cement company lands in Smith’s Landing, but instead through “a gap” in them.
“The Public Service Commission has to hold hearings along the (underground) route,” she said, “so there’ll be a hearing in Greene County.”
Carlock said that among numerous additional criteria in the plan, including stringent monitoring requirements, another area in the river being avoided is Haverstraw Bay, which is important for short-nosed sturgeon.
“Overall,” she said, “we feel there’s been a lot of beneficial changes to the project.”
For more information on the Trust Fund, visit www.chpexpress.com/environmental-trust-fund.php.
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