ORRINGTON – Another piece of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.’s planned Northeast Reliability Interconnect fell into place on Thursday when Orrington’s planning board approved a substation expansion to link the town to the Canadian Maritimes provinces with a new 345-kilovolt transmission line.
“We’ve approved your plan,” Chairman Louis Morin told Bangor Hydro representatives at Thursday’s planning board meeting. “Now you guys can move forward.”
The Orrington substation, located on the Fields Pond Road, connects Bangor Hydro to the rest of New England and is the only location were the transmission line can be connected, according to company representatives.
A good-faith promise to study the substation’s current noise levels and noise levels after it has been expanded was tied to Orrington’s approval of the expansion.
The Northeast Reliability Interconnect, or NRI, is a high-voltage transmission line proposed to run between Orrington and Point Lepreau, New Brunswick, Canada.
Bangor Hydro is constructing the 85-mile power line to the Canadian border, which is expected to cost $90.4 million. New Brunswick Power will build, own and operate the remaining 60 miles of the transmission line in Canada.
To gain approval for the new transmission line, Bangor Hydro personnel have been going to all nine communities along the proposed route to gain new permits or update current permits.
“The entire project was permitted in the 1990s,” Steve Sloan, Bangor Hydro NRI permitting manager, said after the Orrington meeting. “Bangor Hydro withdrew the project in 2001 and resubmitted it in 2002.”
The proposed electric line, which was given Maine Public Utility Commission approval in August, runs through Brewer, Orrington, Holden, Eddington, Bradley, Milford, Great Pond, Princeton and Baileyville.
“We went to Eddington on Tuesday and Holden last night,” Sloan said Thursday. “We have approvals from Milford, Bradley, Great Pond and now Orrington.
“As a matter of fact, we already had a permit with the town of Orrington and could have gone forward, [but] we felt like it was the right thing to come back with a fresh request,” Sloan said.
Steve Condon, Holden code enforcement officer, said the town’s planning board reviewed Bangor Hydro’s plan and should vote on reissuing the company’s permit at their next meeting.
“Their application was found complete and they have a public hearing scheduled for the Oct. 5 planning board meeting,” he said. “Following the public hearing, I expect the board to do their review … and hopefully get [Bangor Hydro’s] project accepted at that time.
“They have been approved for this same project twice before,” Condon said, adding that he expects the review process to go smoothly.
In Brewer, an ordinance change is needed to accommodate the new transmission line, which will be addressed at the Brewer planning board meeting Oct. 3, Sloan said.
The NRI will provide a number of benefits, including improved reliability and power quality for the region’s electrical system, and will allow for electricity to flow from New England to the north.
The new proposed route begins in Orrington, follows the existing Maine Electric Power Co. transmission line for approximately 15 miles, then turns east for approximately 13 miles until it joins the Stud Mill Road in Bradley and the Maritimes & Northeast Gas Pipeline. The route then follows the road and the pipeline east to the St. Croix River and will connect to the Canadian-built line.
A connecting line between Point LePreau and the existing MEPCO line now exists.”The [transmission] line is co-located with the existing corridor for 84 percent of its route,” Sloan said, adding that co-location, running parallel with the gas pipeline, is the best way to reduce the overall effects on human and natural environments.
The only exceptions are around the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the Maine Youth Fish and Game Association facility at Pickerel Pond, which the new route skirts.
“It’s really a new project that transfers very little impact to the environment,” Sloan said.
Bangor Hydro is working to gain permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the federal Department of Energy before going forward with the construction of the new transmission line.
Two public meetings to receive public comment on the draft environmental impact statement with the U.S. Department of Energy are scheduled for the end of the month in Baileyville and Brewer.
The Baileyville meeting is 7-9 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Woodland Elementary School, 23 Fourth Ave., and the Brewer meeting is 7-9 p.m. Sept. 29 at Jeff’s Catering Banquet and Convention Center.