Central Maine Power seeks approval for underground river crossing for New England Clean Energy Connect

Central Maine Power (CMP) on Oct. 18 said that it has notified regulators of its intent to amend a key element of its proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line to avoid an aerial crossing over the Kennebec River to address the concerns of state environmental regulators, the host communities, and other stakeholders.

The company said that it will submit a plan to cross under the river using Horizontal Directional Drilling technology to preserve the scenic and recreational value of the segment of the river known as the Kennebec Gorge.

CMP spokesperson John Carroll on Oct. 22 told TransmissionHub that the original application for the entire project was submitted to state regulators last September, and that the company submitted the amendment to its plan proposing the underground river crossing on Oct. 19 to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Maine Land Use Planning Commission (MLUPC).

The New England Clean Energy Connect was selected in response to a Massachusetts initiative to increase the supply of clean energy as required under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, CMP said, adding that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is reviewing 20-year contracts among the state’s largest electric utilities, CMP, and Hydro-Québec for the delivery of 9.45 terawatt hours of electricity annually from Canadian hydropower facilities.

In Maine, the project would produce almost $1bn in economic benefits through construction employment, electricity cost savings, local property taxes, and enhanced economic growth between 2017 and 2027, CMP said, adding that the 20-year Massachusetts contracts would produce additional economic and environmental benefits in Maine through 2043, and separate agreements between CMP and Hydro-Québec could extend the delivery of clean energy benefits to Maine and the region to 2063 or beyond.

Carroll said that the entire Direct Current line would run from Lewiston, Maine, to the Quebec border in Beattie Township, which is roughly 145 miles. The line would be built using steel monopoles with an average height of about 95 feet, he said, adding that the line would operate at 320,000 volts DC. The project is expected to cost $950m, with construction to start in late 2019 or early 2020, and completion in December 2023, he said.

“The segment of line under the Kennebec River will be only a short stretch, but the engineering details (length, cost) are still in development,” he said.

Carroll said that the company has a series of approvals pending for which CMP has a rough timeline; approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission is slated for late 4Q18; approval from the Maine DEP and MLUPC is slated for late 1Q19/early 2Q19; approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is slated for 3Q19; and the DOE Presidential Permit is slated for 4Q19.

Hydro-Québec, in a separate Oct. 18 statement, said that in Québec, the project calls for the  building of a transmission line extending about 100 km between the Appalaches substation, near Thetford Mines, and a connection point on the Québec-Maine border.

Hydro-Québec said that since spring, it has held more than 30 meetings with local organizations, with those discussions providing the company with more knowledge about the area, as well as insight into local concerns and needs with respect to land-use planning. That information will help the company develop possible variants, which will be presented to, and discussed with, host communities over the coming weeks, Hydro-Québec said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3054 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.