BINGHAM – Despite assurances from Central Maine Power Co., several people at a meeting Thursday on the company’s proposal to build a 145-mile transmission corridor through western Maine said they oppose the project because they believe it will serve industrial wind farms.
CMP held the public information session at Upper Kennebec Valley High School in Bingham to lay out plans for the power lines, which the company says would be used to bring hydro power from Canada to Massachusetts.
Barbara Richardson of Greenville Junction said she fears proposed wind turbines in the Moosehead Lake area are part of the plan. She and others contend the turbines will harm the region’s tourism economy.
“I’m concerned with the future development of wind farms in the Moosehead Lake area of Somerset County and the effect that will have on our tourism business, which is 95 percent of our livelihood,” Richardson said. “Without these transmission lines in place, they will not be able to sell the wind energy to Massachusetts. This is a critical piece of the puzzle for the power companies.”
Richard McDonald, president of the anti-wind group Saving Maine and a member of the steering committee of Moosehead Region Futures, said Thursday night that he believes there will be a wind power connection to the proposed corridor eventually.
“This is not for Maine. This is to line the pockets of CMP and their parent company,” he said.
CMP submitted a plan in August to build a 145-mile, high-voltage transmission line through parts of Maine to send hydro-electric power from Quebec to Massachusetts.
CMP’s John Carroll said the project is for hydro power, not wind power.
“This has no wind in Maine associated with it,” Carroll said of the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project. He said another, separate transmission project proposed by CMP and a partner could carry power from new solar and energy-storage projects in western Maine, as well as from wind turbines on both sides of the border.
The power transmission line would start in Beattie Township on the Canadian border. Carroll said the corridor would be 300 feet wide at first, then expand to around 500 feet in some places, and have 100-foot transmission towers. The line would run south of Jackman to Johnson Mountain Township, skirting West Forks to Moxie Gore and The Forks, where the new line would join the existing line from Harris Station at the head of the Kennebec River.
The line also would run near Caratunk and Moscow to the Wyman Lake hydro station, crossing the Kennebec River south of Bingham into Concord Township. From there the line would run through Embden and Anson and into Starks, Industry and New Sharon to Farmington and on south to Lewiston.
The project’s cost is confidential, but CMP has confirmed that it’s in the $1 billion range. Massachusetts electricity customers would cover construction costs, and Maine would benefit from 1,700 new construction jobs, added tax revenue and anticipated savings of $40 million per year on wholesale energy costs over the 20-year life of the power contract, according to CMP charts Thursday.
Carroll said when the company bought the land, officials looked at conservation and sensitive areas they would have to work around and avoid “to be a good neighbor.” He said woodland owners who sold them the land were on board with what would be done on it.
For the project to become a reality, Massachusetts and its utilities would have to take at least one of the bids that CMP and its partners formally made in August as part of the competition to provide the Bay State with massive amounts of electricity.
Carroll said the project filings on the transmission line project could be done by next month.
“The Public Utilities Commission has to approve it, but if the PUC approves it and the (Department of Environmental Protection) doesn’t approve it – a no and a yes doesn’t get us where we need to be,” he said. “We would have to go back to the drawing table to see what we could do to address whatever objections were raised. We also need a presidential permit from the federal government and local permits from the towns.”