The New York State Public Service Commission last week gave the go-ahead for an underground power line that will be submerged beneath the waters of Lake Champlain and pass through Whitehall on its way to New York City.
The $2.2 billion Champlain Hudson Power Express is proposed by Albany-based Transmission Developers Inc. and has been more than two years in the making. The project still needs a federal permit because it crosses a national border, but is one step closer to becoming reality.
The 330-mile, 1,000-megawatt transmission would carry direct current from hydro-electric and wind power sources in Canada to a power station in Queens.
The line would run underneath rail lines and state highways and below Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.
It is proposed to run beneath Lake Champlain before making landfall in Dresden and traveling south along Route 22 and under South Bay. It would then proceed through the village along the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
Approximately six miles would pass through Whitehall; two through the village and four through the town.
The project would also generate some tax revenue for the village and town, but exactly how much is unknown.
Whitehall Supervisor George Armstrong has spoken out in favor of the project, believing any benefits reaped downstate would have a positive trickle down effect on the upstate region.
Village officials, however, have expressed some concerns with the project, specifically several hundred feet that would run beside a new water main that was recently installed on the east side of Route 22 near South Bay (additional segments of that project are ongoing).
The village has asked its engineer to speak with developers of the power line but there has been little dialogue between the two sides.
“We know the probability of stopping or moving the project is zero but they need to be sensitive of where our water line is,” Telisky said.
He said the village does not want to be in the position of having to ask permission to work on its own water line because of its proximity to underground power lines.
Developers say the project has the potential to meet growing energy demands with clean power, reduce emissions and lower energy costs for consumers. They say it will supply New York with enough power to light one million homes.
The commission agreed with those claims determining the project could ease New York’s reliance on coal-powered electrical plants and provide up to 10 percent of New York City’s energy demands.
A critical factor in the commission’s decision was the fact that ratepayers won’t have to assume the cost of the project—the company is expected to bear the entire cost.
The project has generated opposition from some New York lawmakers who fear jobs at upstate power plants could be lost. Some have also been critical of the fact that upstate communities will not be able to tie in to the line.
It’s possible the project could receive federal approval later this year. Construction is expected to take 3.5 years and could be operational by 2017. Developers claim the project could create 300 jobs during the construction phase.
Although the commission found that the environmental impact of the project would be “minimal,” developers did agree to create a $117 million trust to enhance fisheries in Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.
A full environmental impact statement is expected to be released in June.