On Tuesday, Woolwich voters will decide whether to oppose a letter in support of the controversial CMP corridor, which their Select Board voted3-2 to keep in place last month. The proposed 145-mile transmission line would send hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts. Hannah LaClaire/The Times Record

WOOLWICH — On Tuesday, Woolwich residents will decide whether to revoke a 2017 letter their selectmen sent in support of Central Maine Power’s proposed 145-mile transmission line that would send hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts.

Last month, the Woolwich Select Board voted 3-2 not to withdraw a letter in support of the transmission line.

The matter was put on the ballot after Woolwich residents Dani Friend and Sherri Harvey gathered more than 130 petition signatures after the Select Board reaffirmed its support of the proposed transmission line.

“I think it’s great the town gets to weigh in,” said Selectman Allison Hepler, who wrote the board’s initial letter of support in 2017. “That should’ve been the process all along.”

Hepler voted to rescind her letter last month, but was overruled by Selectmen Allen Greene, Jason Shaw and Chairman David King Sr.

“We wrote the letter based on the little information we had at the time,” Hepler said in August. “I was a reluctant supporter in 2017 and I’ve come to oppose it as we’ve learned more about it.”

Helper, Friend and Harvey cited environmental concerns as their reason for opposing the project.

“The project will not benefit Maine, it will do detrimental harm,” said Friend in August. “There’s a 53-mile stretch of this state that will be cut into in that is untouched, beautiful and pristine.”

The project would lead to the installation of 145 miles of transmission line across western Maine. Ninety-two of those miles already have the infrastructure in place, meaning wires would be added to existing towers, but the remaining 53 miles are neither pristine nor untouched, according to Thorne Dickenson, project manager for the proposed transmission line.

“This is an area that has been logged and harvested on a regular basis. We located the project carefully in an area that is already impacted,” Dickenson said in August.

King said he voted to reaffirm the letter because the project doesn’t negatively impact town residents.

“I don’t see the project damaging the town of Woolwich,” King said last month. “In the Northeast, most of our energy comes from fossil fuels and coal, so if the project can offset a few million kilowatts of that, I think it’s a good thing.”

In a letter to the editor, King, Shaw, and Greene wrote, “The proposed project, as it affects Woolwich, is simply adding lines to existing towers, in the existing CMP owned corridor. CMP is currently the largest taxpayer in the Town of Woolwich and their tax liability will increase, should the project proceed.”

CMP pays just over $360,000 in property taxes to Woolwich annually.

Less than one mile of the line would cross through Woolwich, and CMP owns the land where the existing towers stand.

“CMP could put the lines up tomorrow if they wanted,” said King.

Even if a town along the proposed transmission line rescinds its support or denies a permit allowing CMP to install the lines, the PUC can override the denial if commissioners decide the project is needed for “public welfare and convenience.”

In April, the PUC granted CMP a certificate stating the benefits of the proposed $1 billion transmission line outweigh harder-to-gauge impacts on scenery and outdoor recreation in the western Maine mountains.

So far in Maine, 23 of the 38 municipalities the transmission line would pass through have voted to oppose the project or rescinded their earlier support, according to Natural Resources Council of Maine.

In February Gov. Janet Mills backed a deal that would have CMP give $258 million to Mainers over 40 years to help lower electric bills in exchange for a permit to build the transmission line.

Woolwich residents can vote at Woolwich Central School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8.

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