Red flashing lights on new Central Maine Power transmission towers in Woolwich and Bath are seen from Brown’s Point Road in Bowdoinham. Neighbors hope the disruptive flashing can be mitigated, perhaps by radar that will turn the lights on only when a plane is flying in the area. Darcie Moore/The Times Record

WOOLWICH — Central Maine Power representatives will meet with Woolwich residents Wednesday over a set lights atop CMP’s new transmission towers that have irked some living in the Chops area.

The lights were installed near the mouth of the Kennebec River over the summer. Nearby residents told a Times Record reporter they were never told the lights, which flash white during the day and turn red at night, would be installed. Fog and clouds and the reflection off the water make the flashes of red through the night more prominent.

One tower sits in Bath and the other on Chop Point School property, carrying lines across Chops Point. The lights can be seen from Merrymeeting Bay, as far away as Pleasant Point in Topsham and Brown’s Point Road in Bowdoinham.

“It’s one of the most egregious things I’ve ever seen occur in a nature-residential setting such as Merrymeeting Bay,” Curt Fish of Woolwich told a Times Record reporter in July. “These have like, 24 lights — all blinking LED lights which are ridiculously bright, and they make the bay look like a disco tech or a crime scene depending on how you come to it.”

According to CMP spokeswoman Catherine Hartnett, the two previous transmission towers on either side of the river were more than 80 years old and needed to be replaced. Those original 195-foot towers were permitted decades ago when the Federal Aviation Administration didn’t require lights to warn passing aircraft. The old towers were replaced with 240-foot towers that had to meet FAA regulations, Harnett said.

There are small regional airports in the area, including in Brunswick, Wiscasset and Augusta.

Woolwich resident Christian Leger said the community is upset CMP didn’t reach out to discuss how they could abide by FAA requirements while being considerate of those living nearby.

“If they had consulted with the residents in the area, they would’ve known we’re not okay with having lights flashing in our faces,” said Leger. “We all need electricity and we all need to live with a certain amount of infrastructure but we didn’t come to Maine with its beautiful nature to look at transmission towers.”

In a letter dated Dec. 16 to CMP President and CEO Doug Herling, Reps. Seth Berry, Allison Hepler, Sean Paulhus and Denise Tepler and Sen. Eloise Vitelli said they reached out to the FAA in November and discovered CMP proposed the current lighting system in February 2018.

The Senator and Representatives wrote they were disappointed to hear an alternative lighting option could have been installed on the towers initially, which “could have prevented much stress and frustration for the community members, helped the community build some much needed good will with the local residents, and saved ratepayers money.”

In response, Herling acknowledged the impact the lights have had on the community in a Dec. 19 letter and said the company purchased a “state-of-the-art radar system that will detect when an aircraft is in the area and, once detected, automatically turn the hazard lighting on and then off once the aircraft has safely passed.”

Herling said CMP must receive a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission before the radar system can be installed on the towers. The company hopes to receive approvals in less than six months.

In the same letter, Herling mentioned Wednesday’s meeting, describing it as a chance for CMP to, “provide information and an opportunity for the public to ask questions about this matter.”

Hepler, a Woolwich selectwoman, said she’s interested to hear what CMP’s options are and hopes CMP and Woolwich residents can find an amicable solution.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. at Woolwich Town Hall.

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