SKOWHEGAN — Supporters of the proposed 145-mile-long power line through Maine connecting hydropower assets in Quebec to the Massachusetts power grid are scheduled to address Somerset County commissioners Wednesday afternoon.

Opponents of the nearly $1 billion project proposed by Central Maine Power Co. also will be on hand to voice their concerns over the project’s environmental effect as well as the effect on the area’s four-season tourism industry. A 4,000-member group called Say No to NECEC is calling on county commissioners to rescind their earlier vote to support the project.

In January 2017, county commissioners submitted a letter of support to CMP for the project, representing towns and unorganized territories in the county along the proposed corridor. In a 4-0 vote on Jan. 4, with District 1 Commissioner Robert Sezak, of Fairfield, abstaining, commissioners said the plan, if accepted as part of the New England Clean Energy Connect project, will be good for the tourism economy and local infrastructure, boost the region’s tax base and reduce energy prices.

Proponents of the project are slated to speak from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday during a workshop session of the board.

John Carroll, a spokesman for CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, said the company plans to make a brief presentation, then a number of supporters will speak.

Supporters say the project promises clean energy and reduced use of fossil fuels, while providing jobs to Maine’s rural economy.

According to CMP, the project would bring on average 1,700 jobs each year to Maine during construction and generate about $73 million annually in wages. The company also has estimated $18 million annually in new property tax revenue.

The project has been delayed multiple times after CMP submitted incomplete applications or failed to provide information in a timely manner.

The transmission line would provide 1,200 megawatts to power roughly 1 million homes in Massachusetts. While its $950 million budget would be funded by Massachusetts electricity customers, the 145-mile-long infrastructure — plus updates to an existing 50-mile line — would run through 38 communities in Somerset, Franklin and Androscoggin counties. CMP owns the land where the new line would be installed.

The project still needs several state and municipal permits as well as approval from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Aviation Administration before construction can begin.

CMP has estimated the permitting process will be complete by 2019 and construction complete by 2022.

Sandra Howard, a spokeswoman for the group Say NO to 145-mile transmission line through Maine and a registered Maine guide in Caratunk, said the towns of West Forks, The Forks, Moose River, Dennistown, and Jackman have come out against the project. Caratunk selectmen rescinded their support and now are an active intervenor at the three approval agencies.

“Last spring, CMP quietly courted towns to entice support with a promise of a tax benefit, which was proven at the PUC by independent economic consultants as a gross overestimate,” Howard said. “Now, as towns and organizations learn more about the project’s negative impacts to Maine’s pristine western mountains, native brook trout spawning streams, deer wintering yards, and scenic character, there is cause for alarm on how these impacts would weaken the recreational tourism economy resulting in permanent job loss in Somerset County.”

The Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Appalachian Mountain Club have objected to the project because of the potential effect on the landscape and what they said was an exaggeration of environmental benefits cited by CMP.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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