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Public airs support and frustrations over proposed Aroostook power corridor at meeting

Windmills catch the wind blowing on Stetson Mountain, in Range 8, Township 3, Maine, in this July 14, 2009 file photo.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Windmills catch the wind blowing on Stetson Mountain, in Range 8, Township 3, Maine, in this July 14, 2009 file photo.

At a public meeting Tuesday, LS Power officials gave more details about a power line that's proposed to link southern Aroostook County to the southern Maine electrical grid. But some residents along the proposed path are not pleased about the process.

A small but steady stream of local landowners came to the meeting at the Mattawamkeag municipal building to see detailed maps of the proposed power line route.

The 1,200-megawatt power line would need a corridor about 150 feet wide, for nearly 150 miles from Glenwood Plantation to Coopers Mills. The project would send electricity south from a 1,000-megawatt wind farm that's proposed for Aroostook County. Roughly the northernmost 45 miles will likely follow an existing power corridor, then travel along Interstate 95.

Nicole Collins, an assessor in Reed Plantation, which the line would cross, was impressed with the project planning, and noted that plans call for 60% of the power to stay in Maine.

"So it's made in Maine, sold in Maine," Collins said. "This is just the transmission portion of it, not the generation, and I think that's an important distinction. And I think it looks great."

The Public Utilities Commission accepted LS Power's bid to build the project last year, and it won legislative approval last month. But some people along the route say they've not been given sufficient notice.

Glenn MacDonald, the assessor of Glenwood Plantation, said he just learned about the project through a letter last week, and felt blindsided and caught off-guard. He said this was especially surprising because the company is also proposing to build a substation in the town.

And Greg Rossel, a boatbuilder in Troy, says when he got a letter notifying him that the power line could cross his land, it was so nondescript that he first tossed it into recycling.

"The towns didn't know anything about it, people in this area, I think along the entire corridor, have been blindsided by this thing, and are angry about it," he said.

Rossel would rather see the power line follow existing utility corridors, and he sees echoes of the fight over the CMP corridor in western Maine.

"People are not going to be happy about it, people are not going to be quiet about it," Rossel said. "I could easily see lawsuits and going through the same thing all over again."

But at the meeting in Mattawamkeag, LS Power's Doug Mulvey said this is just the start of a long public process that will continue through route selection and environmental permitting.

"Some of them will be more formal public hearings where landowners will have a chance to come and provide information to the regulators, and hear information from the company about the project," he said. "So there's a wide variety of permits required, and a wide variety of public input that will be considered as part of the process."

The meetings will continue this week and next, moving southward along the proposed route.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.