By Ted Waddell
SULLIVAN COUNTY May 12, 2006 The first public meeting held to present New York Regional Interconnect's (NYRI) plan to create a nearly 200-mile-long high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission line was held Thursday, April 27 at the New Windsor Town Hall.
Johnathan Pierce, the public relations representative for NYRI, reportedly informed the public during the meeting that the privately-owned, Canadian-based company was now focusing on what was first billed as the alternative inland route, as opposed to their first-announced route along portions of the federally protected Upper Delaware River.
"It's not up to us to make that designation, it's up to the New York State Public Service Commission. . . . Most importantly, it's a beautiful area, and we don't want to disturb it," he said in previously published media reports.
NYRI, a corporation formed in April 2005, is the developer of the interconnection project.
NYRI's principal backer of record is American Consumer Industries, which owns 50 percent of Colmac NYRI, Inc. which owns 100 percent of NYRI.
According to NYRI, the project "provides a cost-effective alternative to constructing new gas or oil-fired generators to produce electric power" and "is planned to follow existing railway or utility right of ways [ROWs] for nearly the entire length" of the approximately 190-mile-long series of transmission towers.
When word of the proposed project began to spread, folks in the Upper Delaware River corridor began to rise up in opposition to what was billed as NYRI's first choice: establishing towers carrying five HVDC lines at locations along the river.
In text and graphics recently released via public notice by NYRI (see page 7A in printed version) and made available at www.nyri.us, the company plans to relocate the proposed electric transmission lines more inland along existing ROWs (a combination of Columbia Gas, Marcy South Electric and the Norfolk Southern Railroad properties), thus avoiding as significant an impact on the corridor.
As it affects Sullivan County north of Hancock, "the route continues adjacent to the gas ROW, departing for a short distance to cross NYS Route 17 and the East Branch of the Delaware River before rejoining the gas ROW east of the Village of Hancock.
"The route continues adjacent to the gas ROW except for several short diversions through the towns of Fremont and Cochecton. . . . It continues parallel to the gas ROW until approaching the Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area (MVMA) where the route diverges from the gas line south of the MVMA to a short crossing of the Mongaup River at the Rio Reservoir . . . continues adjacent to the gas pipeline which also parallels an electric transmission line to the Town of Forestburgh."
The route then follows the electric ROW across the Neversink River in the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal Park and the Basher Kill, where it intersects the Norfolk-Southern/Metro North Railroad ROW east of Cuddebackville, and from there along various ROWs to the Rock Tavern substation in Hamptonburgh.
As one of two alternative routes identified by NYRI, they investigated running the lines "along the railroad ROW . . . to Deposit and continuing south through Hancock and the Upper Delaware River Valley to the vicinity of Port Jervis."
"The project will increase the ability for new and more efficient sources of competitive electric energy, including renewable energy, to reach growing New York State markets and will help reduce existing congestion of the New York electric transmission system," said NYRI.
Despite the switch to a route with somewhat less direct impacts on the Upper Delaware River, a lot of folks are still up in arms over the proposal.
"Unless we as individuals and organizations get involved [with the planning, application and approval process], it will be done for us," said Troy A. Bystrom at the May 7 public meeting called by the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition (UDPC) to discuss the estimated $1 billion project.
As shown on the map provided by NYRI, the proposed route is shorter than the alternate route, but it should be noted that portions of the route through the Upper Delaware River corridor near Fremont Center and Cochecton parallel the river, in some cases only about 100' from the water.
Charged with protecting the Upper Delaware River for present and future generations, the National Park Service questioned the NYRI project.
"The electric transmission line as proposed by NYRI would dramatically alter the existing landscape and would significantly impact the tens of thousands of recreationists who use the river for canoeing, kayaking and fishing each year," said David C. Forney, superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River in a letter dated April 14, 2006 to the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Realiability.
Forney went on to note that the qualities that qualified the Upper Delaware for federal protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1976 also contributed to NYS Route 97 being designated as a NYS Scenic Byway, which parallels the river and railroad.
The NYS Senate has jumped into the fray too, with State Senator John Bonacic announcing this week that the Senate is committing $50,000 to the Upper Delaware Council to fight NYRIs plan.
The state is already well aware of the project. Article VII of the NYS Public Service Law sets forth a review process for the consideration of any application to construct a major utility transmission facility within the state.
It requires that an applicant apply for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need and in addition meet Article VII requirements before constructing any such facility.
According to NYRI, they plan to submit their Article VII application to the New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC) later this spring.
"After reviewing our Article VII certificate and all other regulatory approvals, we anticipate starting construction in the spring of 2008," said NYRI project manager Richard "Bill" May.
The construction phase of the project is expected to take approximately two and a half years, and NYRI anticipates the system to be fully operational by 2011.
NYRI recently expanded their series of public informational meetings to include residents of the Upper Delaware River Valley.
On May, 8 NYRI issued a press release inviting the public to attend an informational meeting at the Delaware Community Center, located at 8 Creamery Road, Callicoon.
The meeting will be held Thursday, May 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. For further information, contact Pierce at 1-877-FYI-NYRI or email firstname.lastname@example.org.