By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY April 4, 2006 Goodbye, Pegasus. Hello, New York Regional Interconnect.
The Canadian company that announced plans in 2003 to build high-voltage power lines along the Norfolk Southern railway lines in Sullivan County has sold its rights-of-way.
Albany-based NYRI announced late last week its own plans to build a 200-mile high-voltage transmission line that will run from Utica to Rock Tavern.
We bought all of the rights-of-ways from Pegasus, said Jonathan Pierce, manager of community outreach for NYRI. That doesnt mean well use all of them.
But the current plan is to use at least one right-of-way through Sullivan County, he said, either running direct current lines down the railroad or moving slightly east and running along existing energy transmission rights-of-way.
Were required by the [NY] Public Service Commission to provide two alternate routes, Pierce explained.
The Public Service Commission looks at those and looks at what our feedback is and they select.
The plan is to run lines from the Edic Substation in the Town of Marcy in Oneida County down to Norwich, where Pierce said it splits.
They can either follow the Norfolk Southern line through Binghamton, Deposit, Hancock, and on into the Town of Fremont (continuing through the towns of Delaware, Cochecton and Tusten) or opt for the energy lines that fall slightly to the east.
NYRI hopes to extend its line all the way to the Rock Tavern Substation in the Town of New Windsor.
The 1,200-megawatt project, which will be all high-voltage direct current, should reduce concerns about emissions, Pierce said.
Its a more efficient way of transporting energy, he explained.
In a NYRI press release, Project Manager Bill May also surmised New Yorkers will see a reduction in energy costs as the new lines ease transmission bottlenecks.
Currently, most of the power generated in New York State is done in the north and west, while much of the population is in the east and south.
What May dubs bottlenecks in transmission lines make energy more costly for consumers in the southeastern part of the state, including Sullivan County.
The $1 billion NYRI line, which will be funded privately, is expected to begin benefitting New Yorkers by 2011.
Construction, currently slated for spring 2008, cannot begin until the Public Service Commission makes its final decisions on the plans.
Pierce said the company is eager to hear from the community public meetings are in the works.
Were still working on locations, he said. There will be some that should be accessible to people in Sullivan County.
With a 200-mile-long project, its hard . . . were looking at meetings every 50 miles, he noted.
But community groups in Sullivan County are encouraged to contact NYRI to invite officials to come down for a presentation.
Calls to the feedback line, 1-877-FYI-NYRI, will also be answered as quickly as possible.
Were a little deluged right now, Pierce said. Were not getting back to people within a day or sometimes even a week, but itll slow down.
Calls will be returned, he said.
Residents can also turn to the NYRI Website for information or to make comments on the project. Visit www.nyri.us.
Bill Douglass, executive director of the Upper Delaware Council in Narrowsburg, will be turning to NYRI for answers to a lot of questions.
Notified last week of the changes by Pegasus President Richard Muddiman, Douglass said he knows little about the new plan.
Muddiman was tight-lipped throughout Pegasus involvement, and Douglass said the new company seems to be much slicker with a fancy Website and detailed maps and plans.
Googling Muddiman and Pegasus brought up almost nothing, he said, but this company is putting its cards on the table.
Still, he wants to hear a more detailed presentation of their plans.
The more people find out whats going on, the better for everyone, he said.
The UDCs real concern is how the power plans will mesh with the management plan for the river valley developed years ago by locals with the help of the National Park Service.
The river management plan is only a plan, and the intent is to protect the resources, Douglass cautioned. Its not a law.
But that management plan calls any power project that exceeds 125 kilovolts an incompatible use.
Figures on the NYRI Website state this project will carry about plus or minus 400 kilovolts.
When Pegasus made its announcements almost three years ago, Douglass said the UDC looked for data on high-voltage direct current power lines and found little.
Theres nothing to generate the concerns of negative environmental impacts from alternating current, but theres also little promoting direct current that doesnt come from a power companys assurance that this is the most effective way to carry power, he said.
NYRI has an entire section of its site dedicated to the environment with promises to use renewable resources and respect endangered species.
Douglass said thats where his biggest concerns lie in how NYRIs plans will affect the environment.
Muddiman had made assurances that in the river valley, the power lines would be buried to maintain the aesthetics of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.
We prefer it to be buried instead of aboveground, Douglass said. But of course, with this new corporation, they might say, Well, thats the old corporation, were the new corporation.
By the same token, buried lines mean more land would have to be disturbed.
That brings another issue to the forefront, Douglass said.
Why follow this path?
When public hearings are held, he plans to bring forth the suggestion that the power lines run from Utica to Albany via the New York Thruway and possibly down the Hudson River Valley.
Douglass cant say if thats a viable option but hed like to hear more on every side of the issue.
Next up? The UDC is looking to invite NYRI to town, along with the Public Service Commission.