A Columbia County power line initiative may finally get off the ground with minimal disruption to the environment and quality-of-life.
As New York state’s most prominent environmental groups ramp up their calls for green power and as other activists continue to demand a shutdown of the downstate Indian Point Nuclear Energy plant, demand for electricity has been increasing. And it has become apparent that additional transmission lines could help supply underserved areas and possibly become a buffer of sorts should a facility go offline.
One project proposed in 2012 involved putting up a 115 kilovolt transmission line through the town of Ghent and a few neighboring communities.
Koethi Zan is Executive Director of Protect Ghent : "This line would cut through the middle of farmer's fields, the cultural center of the community, right next to people's homes, etc. So we have been opposing any high voltage power line in our community."
New York State Electric and Gas Company said the new overhead line would provide a back-up to its Churchtown-Craryville line, which serves more than 10,000 customers in Columbia County. The line would be connected to a new switching station to be built in Ghent. NYSEG held a series of meetings with various town boards across the county as well as a public meeting in Chatham to discuss the plans.
Corporate Communications Manager Clay Ellis explains "NYSEG originally determined that we needed to add some facilities in the Columbia County area in order to continue to provide safe, reliable service to our customers. Our original proposal was for a 115,000 volt transmission line to accomplish that need. However, the Department of Public Service staff came back with another idea, to build a 34.5 kv line to take care of that need."
The Public Service Commission plan would use existing transmission routes and regular-height poles. Koethi Zan says Protect Ghent supports the alternative: "It's just like all of the regular utility poles that already exist in the community. It looks very normal, not out of place. It doesn't go through farmer's fields, it doesn't destroy views and agricultural uses."
Zan and her group remain "cautiously optimistic" - she adds the low-voltage line would help preserve the beauty of Columbia County and maintain current property values.
The alternative would cost more to build but both proposals are under ongoing review. In the interest of opening "settlement negotiations," NYSEG has scheduled local meetings to be held the four Thursdays remaining in July in communities affected by the proposal. Again, Clay Ellis. "We would discuss issues and concerns that people have. Anyone who would like to can be part of the settlement discussions by signing up and we have information that will be available at these public meetings to tell people how they can do that."
The meeting schedule:
• July 10, 2014, 4-8 p.m., NYSEG Chatham Service Center, 31 Dardess Drive, Chatham
• July 17, 2014, 4-8 p.m., West Ghent Volunteer Fire Station, 74 Bender Boulevard, West Ghent
• July 24, 2014, 4-8 p.m., NYSEG Chatham Service Center, Chatham
• July 31, 2014, 4-8 p.m., West Ghent Volunteer Fire Station, West Ghent.
It's anticipated settlement negotiations will begin in mid-August. The PSC did not respond to a call for comment.