SKOWHEGAN – Some Somerset County residents want to see a proposed energy project from CMP (Central Maine Power) power down.
Concerned locals presented county commissioners Wednesday with the reasons why they’re opposed to building a 145 mile transmission line through the western part of the county.
Those against the proposal said it would hurt ecotourism in the area.
“There’s no amount of money that’s worth this massive amount of destruction,” said Sandra Howard, who is opposed to CMP’s plans.
Since a similar meeting last month, CMP has decided to build the hydroelectric transmission line underneath the Kennebec River.
Many locals had been concerned that above-ground lines would interfere with the snowmobile industry and the region’s natural beauty.
CMP originally offered $22 million via a non-profit for recreational projects in the area. Howard said since then, CMP has changed to offering $5 million because they’ve elected to drill under the Kennebec instead of building over it.
Howard said the hydroelectric power line, which would go from Canada to Massachusetts, would not help people here in Maine.
“It’d be a super highway like I-95, but no exit ramp,” said Howard. “So really no benefit to the local ratepayers.”
CMP officials at Wednesday’s meeting said they would build on private land, and help locals by lowering their energy costs. They also said a benefit of the proposal was protecting the environment in the long run with clean energy.
“If we want to preserve outdoor recreation,” said Catharine Hartnett, a spokesperson for CMP, “we need to think big and this project with the NECEC (Northeast Clean Energy Council) is a solution for that.”
“I would like to see at some point, I can only speak for myself on this, is to rescind the letter,” said Robert Sezak, the Somerset County Commissioner for District 1 (Fairfield, Norridgewock).
Back in January, all of the Somerset County Commissioners, except for Sezak, signed a letter supporting CMP’s proposal.
Commissioners said they originally heard supportive comments from residents, and now have to reconsider. More than 4,000 people have joined a group to say no to CMP and said they want the commissioners to rescind that approval letter.
“There’s a lot of unorganized territory in this county, and in the towns that there are residents, we’re trying to say that there’s been a change of heart in these towns,” said Howard.
They’re also concerned the CMP hydroelectric power line would lead to building wind turbines, too, something Somerset County Commissioners have already come out in opposition to.
CMP representatives said they are welcoming the public’s questions and opinions.
“It’s always great to keep an open mind on solutions. I think we can all agree what the problem is,” said Hartnett, “what we need to do is agree on what the best long-term solution is for the people of Maine and the whole region.”
Ultimately the decision is up to the state’s approval agencies. Locals said they want their county commissioners to represent their opposition to the decision makers.