For quite some time now, Central Maine Power has been on the lips and the lawns of many Maine residents. Whether about the billing scandal, rate hikes or the transmission corridor controversy, CMP has received much press.

What is too often left out of the picture is how CMP has also had a real impact on the lives of many communities affected by CMPs local infrastructure development. It is impossible to travel Maine’s communities without being constantly reminded of CMP’s outsized presence in our daily lives: Transmission lines are crisscrossing our skies and towers are scarring our landscape to service distant populations, without concern for the communities they disrupt.

My wife and I moved to a home on the Kennebec river nearly four years ago in an area known as The Chops. Nearly 40% of all freshwater in Maine flows through this area as it leaves the Merrymeeting Bay on its way to the sea. It is a major bird migratory route, and eagles and osprey have recently made the nearby shores their nesting and hunting grounds again. It is an area of great natural beauty and environmental importance, and residents of the surrounding towns have worked diligently to minimize their footprint on The Chops.

That is, until CMP “upgraded” two old transmission towers for the corridor crossing the Kennebec River at The Chops in the spring of 2019 without consulting local residents and towns on how to best meet the need for infrastructure maintenance while minimizing impact to the surrounding areas.

That the original towers were showing dangerous signs of age and needed to be replaced isn’t disputed.

However, the old towers were lower, and they remained unlit since their erection in the 1930s without any aviation incident. Their replacements are not only taller and considerably higher above the river: each is also equipped with a three-tier strobe aviation warning system that’s been blinking constantly and scarring the night sky for miles ever since it was put in operation, despite the fact that there is no major airport in the area and that we seldom see air traffic, let alone night flights. These strobes have a tremendous environmental impact and are a major disruption for the surrounding homes and communities.

As you are reading this today, under continued pressure from residents on both sides of the river and with the support on our local legislators, CMP is now pursuing the installation of an FAA compliant radar aviation warning system that activates of the navigation lights only when an aircraft is detected in the area. This solution will go a long way to address local concerns and we are grateful for this outcome.

However, as we have further looked into the chain of events that brought us to this resolution, it seems clear that CMP had a number of options to choose from to comply with FAA regulations, but that it chose the most expedient for them, not what is best for the community. The radar detection system could have been part of the original upgrade plans more than 2 years ago. Instead, we are quickly approaching the 12th month since we raised our concerns and we are now told that the permitting process alone may take until June before any implementation is even started. One wonders if this timetable would be acceptable if the CEO of CMP, Mr. Doug Herling, had to live under the constant strobing of these towers.

CMP claims that it wants to be a good neighbor, but once again has shown that, unless it is forced to, the company does what is in its best interest instead of the interest of people it services. Mainers should not have to pay for the company’s infrastructure development by being subjected to major daily disruption to their communities.

For us on The Chops, the question today is: how much longer before we finally have a resolution? An equally important question is how many other communities might wake up to similar nightmares? As Maine is addressing needed upgrades to its infrastructure, we need to assure that communities are part of the planning, not just for the media-worthy projects, but also the ones that impact our neighborhoods.

Christian Leger lives in Bath.

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