For the past four months, a Toronto-based corporation built support for its plan to run a high-voltage direct current transmission line on the floor of Lake Erie from Ontario to Erie County.
Lake Erie Power Corp. met with federal and state regulators, government agencies, local politicians and the S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie sport fishing club.
It took another step Thursday by announcing its plan to the public with a news conference and a meeting with the Erie Times-News Editorial Board.
And it hopes to begin public meetings this fall after settling on a preferred route for the $1 billion project, said John Douglas, chief executive.
Douglas could have been anticipating some public questions when he told the Editorial Board that the project would not “wreck the lake, it’s not going to kill fish, and we’re going to be responsible about bringing a line to shore.”
The line not only would be buried about 2 to 3 feet under the lake bed, but it would be buried on land, too, so there’s “no visual impact,” Douglas said. Two solid, 6-inch diameter transmission cables likely would be installed by the cable manufacturer that gets the contract, he said.
The cables would be put on the lake floor from a ship, then the lines would slide into a trench created by water jets. Assuming it gets all permits and approvals, the planned construction timetable would be 2016 to 2017.
Lake Erie Power Corp. is considering two routes for the power that would be generated by several sources, including 40 percent from hydroelectric, wind and solar.
Its preferred route would travel about 65 miles from Nanticoke, Ontario, to Girard Township, Douglas said.
The route then would go about 8 miles south of the lake along an abandoned railroad right of way, before ending at the proposed site of a $200 million station that would convert the direct current to alternating current. The station would be built adjacent to a Penelec high-voltage substation near Albion Borough.
Douglas said there’s already an option to buy that 8-mile right of way.
Douglas said that during all of the corporation’s meetings, “not one person said, ‘I have a problem with this.'”
Ed Kissell, vice president of the S.O.N.S., said the group is taking a cautious approach. It will analyze and ask questions about any disturbances to fish habitats and sediments in the path of the trenching, said Kissell, who attended the news conference.
Ed Mascharka III, northwest regional commissioner with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said that underwater high-voltage direct current cables might be new to Erie, but they’re not new in other bodies of water.
“My goal would be to make sure there is no harm to the fishery resource,” Mascharka said. “I’ve got an open mind on it,” he said, adding that the technology has been used before without negative consequences.
Douglas said the route would avoid Presque Isle State Park and sensitive fishing areas such as Elk Creek. “We will pick the route with the least environmental impact,” said Douglas, 52, who fishes six months of the year in Lake Ontario.
The privately funded project is expected to create 300 construction jobs, 1,200 indirect jobs and about 20 to 30 permanent jobs – one-half on each side of the lake, Douglas said.
The project will not rely on subsidies, grants or loan guarantees from federal, state or local governments, he said. He said it also would generate income tax revenue and millions of dollars in property taxes.
The project would provide the Erie region and a power grid that serves 13 states and the District of Columbia with an abundance of energy from Ontario, Douglas said.
John Elliott, chief executive of the Economic Development Corp. of Erie County, said the project would provide “supply and stability to the local power grid” – a key factor in economic-development projects.
Elliott and Erie County Executive Barry Grossman made remarks at the news conference in support of the project.
Among those attending the news conference was former state Sen. Jane Earll, of Fairview Township, who worked on introducing the principals in the corporation to various parties in the community.
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