By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY October 10, 2003 The Delaware River valley could become the next conduit for power-hungry New York.
A Canadian company has chosen the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks running through Sullivan County as its path to erect a high-capacity power line.
But local officials arent sure their plans will fit in with decades-old studies developed to protect the Delaware River corridor.
The high-voltage lines will connect New York Powers Marcy substation with Niagara Mohawks Edic and Porter substations as well as Consolidated Edisons substation in Manhattan and a Hudson substation in northeastern New Jersey.
The advantages are simple, said Pegasus Power President Richard Muddiman.
By connecting the lines, it will enable energy to flow between Quebec and Ontario, New York State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.
Muddiman said studies show residents will benefit from lower energy prices, increased reliability, even less air pollution. In fact, Pegasus literature about the proposal references the recent Northeast blackout, intimating the line might mitigate similar situations in the future.
The State of New York has a very irregular shape, Muddiman said, referencing the power grid. It all gets pinched down to Manhattan.
This is all about geography the geography of New York is such that it splits upstate New York from Manhattan.
For someone from Ontario, it might be as if they were two different states, he continued. There is an existing grid in New York that has been developed over 100 years.
And the Utica-to-Albany circuit is overloaded, and its causing imbalances.
Theres a huge public benefit that goes along with this, Muddiman added.
But do the benefits outweigh the effect the lines will have on the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational National Park in Sullivan County? After all, the railroad tracks and the potential power lines run the entire length of the park.
Officials at the Upper Delaware Council in Narrowsburg say the Pegasus plan is an incompatible use with the existing River Management Plan.
That plan, which has been followed for decades, was originally developed with the help of the National Park Service and falls under federal guidelines.
According to UDC Senior Resource Specialist Dave Soete, the plan restricts power lines to anything carrying less than 125 kilovolts.
The Pegasus project has a proposed voltage of 70,000 megawatts.
The problems arent only those delineated in the river management plan, Soete said.
Im sure it wouldnt be good for tourism, he added, surmising that folks on the river wont want to look up at huge electric poles jutting into the sky.
Soete has also seen through his research that property values along such projects have dropped 30 to 50 percent, and theres always a concern that a railroad accident might be compounded by the proximity of the power lines.
UDC Executive Director Bill Douglass has had some of his concerns assuaged through talks with Pegasus theyve recently pledged to put the lines underground to reduce the effect on the area.
But there are still a lot of questions on the table.
Theres not a whole lot of information out there about DC [direct current], Douglass said. Having a direct current is less of a health risk than AC [alternating current], and we think being buried would make it less of a health risk.
But theres not an awful lot of DC lines in North America, he continued. Were still looking.
The one thing people should be aware of is the length and breadth of the process, Douglass said.
Although everyone in the industry wants it done tomorrow, its going to take a long time.
Muddiman has pledged to complete environmental impact studies and hold public hearings in accordance with state mandates before moving ahead with the project.
Teshmont Consultants, the engineer for the entire project, has done 50 percent of the projects of this type in the entire world.
They seem to have a good track record, Douglass said. And [Pegasus] seems to have done their homework.
Its going to take a long time, but its here, and we need to deal with it.