Thursday, September 04, 2003

Public hearings set to discuss power line upgrade

By David Gram
The Associated Press
MONTPELIER -- A major power line upgrade designed to increase electric grid stability in northwestern Vermont will get its first public hearing this week.
The state Public Service Board, which regulates utilities and must rule on the proposal by the Vermont Electric Power Co., has set tonight at 7 in the second-floor annex of the Barre Auditorium as the time and place for the first of three sessions.
Most of the upgrade is proposed to take place 50 miles or more from Barre, as power lines from West Rutland to New Haven will be tripled in size with higher poles and broader rights of way. In addition, a new power line will be built from New Haven, north along the Lake Champlain shore to South Burlington, most of it along an existing power line route.
The Barre area would see just a small part of what's been dubbed the Northwest Reliability Project if the project wins board approval. A 5.6-mile power line between Barre and a substation in Williamstown will be replaced with a larger line to give Vermont's bulk power transmission system greater stability, VELCO officials said.
People living near the larger parts of the project also will get a chance to tell the Public Service Board what they think. Hearings have been set for Sept. 29 at Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon and Sept. 30 at the Charlotte Town Hall. Both hearings are scheduled for 7 p.m.
"In all honestly I would expect there's going to be a larger crowd when we get over to Charlotte and Brandon," said Susan Hudson, clerk of the board. "But we did want to make sure we were covered on this (the Barre) portion of the petition."
Fred Peyser of the group Vermont Citizens For Safe Energy, which is raising questions about the health effects of larger power lines on nearby residents, said the group, which is based largely in Addison County, would send two representatives to the Barre meeting.
Barre Mayor Harry Monti said he hadn't heard any talk in his community that would indicate a large turnout for Thursday's session. In fact, Monti said he hadn't heard about the project at all.
Hearing schedule

Here is a schedule of Public Service Board hearings on plans to upgrade Vermont's electric transmission systems. All meetings begin at 7 p.m.
TONIGHT: second-floor annex, Barre Auditorium
SEPT. 29: Otter Valley Union High School, Brandon
SEPT. 30: Town Hall, Ferry Road, Charlotte