WOOLWICH — Woolwich-area residents living near two Central Maine Power transmission towers on Chops Point aren’t satisfied with the utility’s efforts to resolve complaints about the lights on the tower.

After fielding complaints about the aircraft-warning lights that top the tower, the company installed a radar system to keep the lights off except when an aircraft comes near the towers. That radar system was switched on last week.

In a meeting Thursday, CMP Project Manager Jenna Muzzy said moderate to heavy rain or snow would trigger the lights to come on as a safety precaution, which frustrated some people who live near the towers who have complained about the lights since they were installed last summer.

Those who can see the towers from their homes said rain and fog exacerbate the issue, causing the lights to seem brighter.

“In the fog, rain and dark, the lights are horrendous,” said Curt Fish of Woolwich. “It’s the worst health impact we have in our house. It causes migraines … so it’s scary to think these could be in an always-on situation during the exact conditions when they have the greatest negative impact.”

Over the summer, CMP worked to install a radar system on the top of the towers that turns the lights on only when an aircraft flies within about 21,000 feet of a tower.

With the radar in place, Muzzy said the lights on the towers will remain off between 70% and 80% of the time, based on what the company observed while testing the radar earlier this month. The lights will be off about 60% of the time during the day and off around 95% of the time at night.

Dylan Ruppel, project manager at radar company DeTect Incorporated, said fog will not trigger the lights, but the lights will turn on in poor weather as a safety precaution. This is because heavy rain or snow makes it more difficult for the radar to detect an aircraft.

When activated, the tower lights flash white during the day and turn red at night. One transmission tower sits in Bath and the other on Chop Point School property, carrying lines across Chops Point in Woolwich. The point forms a peninsula in Merrymeeting Bay between Woolwich and Bowdoinham. The lights can be seen from Merrymeeting Bay, as far away as Pleasant Point in Topsham and Brown’s Point Road in Bowdoinham.

Residents questioned whether the towers could remain unlit during inclement weather and a Notice to Airmen could be issued to warn them of the towers, but Clyde Pittman, director of engineering at Federal Airways and Airspace, said that would not be an appropriate use of a Notice to Airmen.

“The purpose of a Notice to Airmen is to advise a pilot of any anomalies such as a runway shortage, or an obstruction like a crane,” he said.

Muzzy said CMP asked the FAA whether a Notice to Airmen could be used to avoid lighting the towers, but the request was denied.

“We hear you, but we are bound by the FAA to turn those lights on, making it the safest condition for the large number of aircraft we know are in the area,” said Muzzy.

Still, residents aren’t satisfied with CMP’s answers.

“If we all had the opportunity to participate from the beginning, your application wouldn’t have included those lights I’m sure,” said Jenny Burch of Woolwich. “We need you to go above and beyond to not have our sky lit up like this. We can’t sleep; we can’t live like this.”

“This is your critical moment,” said Fish. “You can make this system work in such a fashion that the neighbors who are impacted can tolerate it, or you can let us take the next step … and the next step is going to be litigious.”

CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett said the tower replacement project was “fully approved – with all relevant information provided – by the Department of Environmental Protection, US Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Bath.”

“There were no approvals required from Woolwich but we informed the town of the nature of the project,” she said.

According to 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 FAA 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.

She said the towers had to be taller “to meet current national codes, US Army Corps of Engineers requirements for clearances over the Kennebec River,” and moved slightly to accommodate heavier wires, which sag more.

She said CMP plans to watch how the radar mitigates the lights “for some time” then determine if another public meeting should be held to answer any remaining questions.

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