June 06, 2020

Bucksport councilors table decision on utility easement> Bangor Hydro-Electric wants to build new high-tension line

BUCKSPORT — The Town Council was unanimous Thursday night in deciding to table voting on a transmission easement for Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., until the wording of an agreement can be fine-tuned.

The power company wants to build a 21-mile, 115,000-volt transmission line from a substation in Orrington to one on Route 1A in Ellsworth. The line would directly enhance power service to Ellsworth, Mount Desert Island, and the Blue Hill area, as well as improve the company’s system as a whole, the utility says.

“When the blueberry freezers come on line, the motels are full, and the restaurants are going, there is a whole bunch of juice being used,” Bangor Hydro right-of-way agent Jack Rawcliffe said recently.

“Right now, the system can handle it, but studies show it’s getting pretty close,” he said.

The new line would cross Bucksport from Thurston Pond to Long Pond, and extend across Route 46 and the Upper Long Pond Road.

Bangor Hydro is seeking to buy easements to 114 acres in Bucksport, and to clear a 150-foot-wide strip for the line. Rawcliffe has been negotiating terms with area landowners, including town residents, Champion International, and the town.

Although some town councilors have been approached by residents with concerns about the project, only a handful of people attended Thursday night’s public hearing, and none spoke during it.

“I expected more people here tonight, but it hasn’t been an issue,” Rawcliffe said after the meeting.

“Most of the people in the audience are those I’ve dealt with who want the project to go forward,” he said.

The public hearing was intended in part for comments on the utility’s request to buy a 1.4-acre easement on town-owned land in the area of the shooting range on Route 46.

Town Manager Roger Raymond said any agreement with the company would stipulate that the transmission line not interfere with shooting range activity, access to Moosehorn Stream, or the public parking lot on Route 46. He also wants to specify that the utility not reassign the easement to another company for any other purpose than electrical power without first approaching the town.

Finally, Raymond wants the town-owned property appraised to determine its fair market value. The Town Council expects to vote on the easement at its next meeting.

Rawcliffe said he is still negotiating with a father of three children who is concerned about the health effects of electromagnetic fields should the line pass 300 feet from his home as planned. The agent said the company would be willing to move it farther away.

Studies have yet to prove that EMFs cause cancer or other harmful health effects, he said.

With the Town Council’s blessing, Bangor Hydro will begin environmental impact studies of the project this fall, with construction expected in 1999. Public hearings will be held before Department of Environmental Protection permits can be granted.

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