The Appalachian Trail follows a meandering route between Caratunk and Monson, topping out on Pleasant Pond and Moxie Bald mountains along the way. The extensive open ledges on Moxie Bald are particularly impressive, with wonderful views westward over Moxie Pond to Mosquito Mountain and Pleasant Pond Mountain, and far beyond to the high peaks of the Bigelows, the Crockers, Sugarloaf and Mount Abraham.

A power line extends down the far side of Moxie Pond, but it’s only discernible if you know where to look for it, and as is, upsets the grand Moxie Bald vista not at all. But that view will look dramatically different if Central Maine Power Co., which owns the power line right-of-way, is successful in its bid to establish a 145-mile transmission line across western Maine and then down the Kennebec River valley.

Known as the New England Clean Energy Connect, the CMP project would link the hydroelectric dams of northern Quebec with the New England grid at Lewiston to deliver 1,200 megawatts of electricity to power-hungry Massachusetts. If bulldozers and construction crews come rumbling through the Moxie Pond area, leaving in their wake an intrusive string of new 100-foot towers, the scenic views along this beautiful section of the Appalachian Trail would be marred for all time.

That’s only part of the story, however. CMP also wants to construct a new, 150-foot-wide transmission line corridor from the Canadian border at Beattie Township eastward to connect with the existing power line at Moxie Pond. The corridor would cross a vast mountainous region and create an ugly 53-mile scar upon the undeveloped land, which is largely working forest but pristine in nature.

THREATENED WILDERNESS

Number Five Mountain rises near the heart of CMP’s planned new corridor section. I hiked the 2.5-mile path to its summit fire tower two summers ago and was so captivated by the incredible wild and remote country in every direction that I consider the peak to be one of Maine’s finest mountaintops. Reflecting on that great hike, it’s inconceivable to me that an industrial gash might one day slice across this landscape, affecting hundreds of wetlands and brook trout streams and fragmenting important wildlife habitat, never mind the enormous scenic impact.

But there’s more. Before reaching Moxie Pond, CMP’s corridor would cross the glorious gorge of the Kennebec River, either by extending the power line 200 feet above the river or by tunneling beneath it. One fine morning last August, I walked the trail into Magic Falls to watch the commercial whitewater rafts negotiate the roaring Class IV drop. Sadly, I thought, that whichever transect CMP might choose, this world-class 12-mile run enjoyed by thousands of boating enthusiasts every year will be forever spoiled.

NO MITIGATION IS ENOUGH

CMP has offered a $22 million mitigation package of superficial niceties to Mainers to accept what neighboring New Hampshire would not when the Granite State rejected another version of this project called Northern Pass last year. Sorry, CMP, but I unabashedly believe there is no dollar figure high enough to assuage the almost unimaginable scale of destruction this project would inflict on Maine’s precious natural heritage and outdoors economy.

This avid hiker and ardent conservationist, based upon all of the above and more, has concluded that CMP’s 145-mile transmission line project is an environmental boondoggle that cannot be allowed. No less than the Dickey-Lincoln School Dam on the St. John River in the 1970s and the Big A Dam on the West Branch of the Penobscot River in the 1980s, Mainers should say “no thanks” in the strongest terms to CMP’s proposal.

It must be noted that CMP actually owns a 300-foot right-of-way, so there’s room for even more transmission lines in the future, or maybe a long chain of wind turbines.

Also, several proposed but unpermitted wind farms in the region, unable to tie into the grid before, might then be revived, adding ever more 500-foot wind towers to our mountaintops.

And then what?

A four-lane east-west superhighway, perhaps? At that point, if not sooner, we might just as well change the sign on Interstate 95 right after the Kittery bridge to read “Welcome to Maine: The Same Way Life is Everywhere Else.” To stave off this unpleasant possibility, please make your voice heard today on CMP’s 145-mile transmission line, then take a hike to celebrate Maine’s incomparable natural beauty.

 


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