With permits to build an underwater and underground power line from the Canadian border to New York City all but fully in hand, the developer is turning its attention to a similar proposal for a 1,000-megawatt power line that would run down Lake Champlain and then across Vermont to feed the New England electric grid.
The developers of the $1.2 billion New England Clean Power Link have purchased the land where the two cables would enter Lake Champlain near the Canadian border in Alburgh and where they would come out of the water 100 miles south in Benson before running about 50 miles east to Ludlow.
They’ve applied for some of the federal permits they will need and now they’re preparing to ask the Vermont Public Service Board for its approval of the project. They hope to have all the permits in hand by the end of next year, begin construction in 2016 and be transmitting power by 2019.
Once out of the water all the cable will be laid in public rights of way and the company TDI New England has been working with the state of Vermont and local communities along the route on the minutiae: Everything from how to be sure the under-road conduits don’t worsen spring frost heaves to how the cables cross beneath bridges or how to ensure that once the cables are buried they aren’t disturbed.
Benson Select Board member Sue Janssen said TDI New England has worked hard to meet the concerns of her community of just over 1,000. They are even paying a lawyer of the town’s choosing to represent the community in the detailed discussions that are coming.
“I have the impression if we’d said we wanted our dirt roads painted pink they’d have done it,” she said.
So far there has been no significant opposition to TDI New England’s major electrical infrastructure project such as has faced plans to build ridge-top industrial wind projects, extend a natural gas power line from the Burlington area to Rutland or build a 180-mile above-ground power line between the Canadian border and northern New Hampshire.
The Lake Champlain projects are among a series of proposed infrastructure projects designed to bring more hydroelectric and wind energy from Canada to energy-hungry southern New England and New York.
In addition to New Hampshire’s Northern Pass, in Maine there is a nascent proposal for a 300-mile power line from near the Canadian border underground across much of the state to the Gulf of Maine where it would run underwater before coming ashore in Massachusetts.
“I think that one of the key differentiators of other proposed projects is that we are all buried,” said TDI New England CEO Donald Jessome.
Burying the cable is a huge change from previous projects, said Vermont Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia, which represents the Shumlin administration before the Public Service Board.
The project needs to benefit Vermont to win state approval, but Recchia said that would be part of the state permitting process.
Sandra Levine, an attorney in the Vermont office of the Conservation Law Foundation, which is seeking to participate in the Vermont permitting process, called the proposal interesting, but said she’s waiting for the details.
Last week TDI New England’s New York counterpart, Transmission Developers, Inc., said federal energy regulators had given final approval for the New York project, the $2.2 billion, 330-mile Champlain Hudson Power Express project, which would run down Lake Champlain and parts of the Hudson, Harlem and East rivers to New York City. Jessome said they expect to be fully permitted for that project in the next few weeks.
Phillip Musegaas, the Hudson River program director for the environmental group River Keeper, said his organization was concerned when they first learned of the New York proposal, but the developer met those concerns. They agreed to move the cable out of the river in sensitive areas and they agreed to set up a $117 million fund to pay for mitigation projects.
“They can’t address every single concern, but I think the company did a very good job of addressing a lot of them and also just acknowledging how valued the Hudson River is.”