November 09, 2004

Shelburne group urges power lines be buried

By Matt Crawford
Free Press Staff Writer

SHELBURNE -- A group of Shelburne residents concerned about a power line upgrade planned for the Champlain Valley is requesting that about four miles of high-voltage line be buried.

The Shelburne Ad Hoc Committee will present signed petitions calling for line burial to Gov. Jim Douglas' office today during a news conference at the Statehouse.

"We have a couple petitions with several thousand signatures and the main thrust is to please bury the lines," said Rep. Joyce Errecart, R-Shelburne, speaking for the group that hopes an outcry from the public will be heard by the state's Public Service Department.

The Shelburne group contends that burying the lines would be aesthetically beneficial to Shelburne and provide health benefits by reducing exposure to electromagnetic fields.

The Shelburne committee was formed after Vermont Electric Power Co., proposed the $130 million Northwest Reliability Project in June 2003. VELCO has petitioned the Vermont Public Service Board for a certificate of public good for the project, which includes the building of electric lines capable of carrying 115,000 kilovolts between West Rutland and South Burlington, Barre and Williamstown, and improve more than a dozen substations along the route.

The Public Service Board is holding hearings on the VELCO petition and expects to make a ruling on the certificate of public good early next year.

VELCO spokesman David Mace said the company sees no need to spend money to bury lines in Shelburne.

"We believe we can build the line overhead safely and mitigate the affects of any aesthetic impacts by tree plantings, lowering pole heights where we can and locating structures in the least obtrusive areas."

Mace added that VELCO has "made it clear to the town of Shelburne that if the town wants to finance the cost of undergrounding, we won't object to it."

Mace said buried power lines would cost an estimated $2.8 million per mile in the Northwest Reliability Project -- about 10 times the cost of running lines overhead. The Shelburne group estimates the cost closer to $1 million per mile for the four miles in town.

A group of Charlotte residents has asked for the project's lines to be buried in that town, too.
Contact Matt Crawford at 651-4852 or