Environmental groups have signed off on a proposed $2 billion project that would bury hundreds of miles of high-voltage power line underground or underneath the Hudson River, supplying New York City with 1,000 megawatts of power.
As part of the agreement, Transmission Developers Inc., the Canadian-based developer, promised to establish a $117 million “habitat restoration fund” over the course of 35 years. The underwater cable will deliver mostly hydro-electric power and possibly wind power generated in Quebec.
“We’re extremely pleased; this is a historical agreement,” said Don Jessome, the president and CEO of Transmission Developers.
The fund will support conservation projects in the Hudson estuary, from Troy to New York Harbor – 153 miles of the Hudson River where salty sea water meets fresh water running off the land.
The Champlain Hudson Power Express project will use an underwater robot to simultaneously dig a trench, drop the cable, and then rebury it underneath the Hudson River. The project still needs approval from the state Public Service Commission and federal regulators.
Environmental groups Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, and New York State Council of Trout Unlimited all signed onto the joint proposal.
Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson environmental advocacy attorney, said the group originally had serious concerns about impact of the line, but changes Transmission made helped improve its environment friendliness. Carlock said the plan now avoids sensitive habitats in the Hudson River and has moved a converter station slated for Yonkers to Queens.
“It’s a better project than originally proposed,” said Carlock.
The agreement comes as operating licenses of two nuclear reactors in Westchester’s Indian Point are set to expire in 2013 and 2015. Jessome said the project is expected to be operating by late 2016.
“It (the project) could help to offset other power services that are less desirable,” said Carlock.
The deal also fits snugly into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build an “energy highway” system that he addressed in his 2012 State of the State. Cuomo mentioned developing an energy expressway down from Quebec and quoted a $2 billion price tag to be picked up by private companies.