July 13, 2020

Hancock County power line plan focus of forum

ELLSWORTH – Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. held an open house Thursday evening to inform the public of its proposal to build a new transmission line and substation in Hancock County.

The proposed Hancock County Reliability Project is designed to create a higher capacity electrical connection to Bangor Hydro’s 26,500 customers in Hancock County, according to Gerry Chasse, a project manager at the utility company. The proposed connection would consist of a 115,000 volt, 14-mile transmission line from Ellsworth to Trenton and a substation in the southern portion of Trenton.

A small but steady stream of local residents browsed the four booths Bangor Hydro had set up in a room at the Holiday Inn in Ellsworth and spoke to five representatives from the utility company.

The proposed line would provide additional power to the area and current lines would continue to operate, Chasse said. For most of its route, the line would travel alongside the existing power lines, and for about four miles it would travel through largely nonresidential, privately owned forestland in Ellsworth, said Gil Paquette, environmental consultant to Bangor Hydro. Poles supporting the line would stand up to 65 feet high.

“We haven’t had any opposition from landowners at this point,” Chasse said. Bangor Hydro usually obtains an easement to make use of private land, he said. Bangor Hydro is in the process of outlining wetland areas, and next year the company will conduct rare-plant and bald eagle surveys to determine the project’s environmental impact, Paquette said.

The substation would measure 200 feet by 200 feet, Chasse said.

Current lines, installed in the early to mid-1950s, are strained during peak conditions, a Bangor Hydro pamphlet stated. System studies have revealed that the current infrastructure cannot support forecast demand for electricity in Hancock County, the pamphlet said.

Bangor Hydro has considered a host of solutions, ranging from doing nothing to upgrading existing lines, to building new lines at various voltages, to generation and conservation. The proposed plan was deemed the most effective, reliable long-term solution, according to the pamphlet.

The projected cost of the project is about $20 million. The average residential customer, who uses 500 kilowatt-hours a month, would see roughly a $1 increase on the monthly bill. Bangor Hydro’s largest commercial customer class, who use about 900 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month, would see an increase of about $1.60 on the monthly bill.

Trenton residents Betsy Meister and Peter Lazas were among the residential customers who attended the open house.

“We wanted to see where the line goes through Trenton,” Lazas said. He said the proposed line would not go near his property.

“I think it’s nice that they gave people the opportunity to ask questions,” Meister said.

When asked, Meister and Lazas said they were not concerned about the increase in their monthly bill.

The utility company has begun filing permits with the Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection and town offices in Hancock County, Paquette said. Bangor Hydro hopes to finish the permitting process by the middle of next summer and begin construction next winter, Chasse said.

More information on the Hancock County Reliability Project can be found online at: www.bhe.com/hcrp.

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