Staff at Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Friday afternoon released a draft permit for Central Maine Power’s controversial powerline through western Maine.
As written, the draft permit would place significant new and potentially costly requirements on the project. Those include a significant narrowing of the corridor in the 54-mile stretch that would cut through the woods of western Maine. Instead of the 150-foot width proposed by CMP, the draft permit would limit it to 54 feet, in order to minimize visual and habitat disruptions.
It would also require CMP to set aside 40,000 acres for permanent conservation in western Maine – although uses could include sustainable forestry. Some conservation organizations had pushed for a major set-aside to compensate for the outsized habitat effects that can happen when a forest is bisected.
Other requirements in the draft decision include requiring that a tree-canopy at least 35-feet tall be maintained across the corridor and a $1.8 million CMP program to install culverts to assist inland fish passage.
CMP Vice President Thorn Dickinson says the company is pleased with the draft and will review the special conditions.
Sandra Howard, leader of the “Just Say NO” opposition group, accused DEP of using the coronavirus pandemic as cover for an unpopular decision.
“It’s deeply frustrating that DEP made its announcement as the country turns its attention to dealing with a public health crisis,” she said in a statement. “This is not transparent, fair behavior.”
The public has until March 27 to comment. After that, DEP Commissioner Jerry Reid will have the final say.