Power line through Lake Champlain clears hurdle

A proposed 333-mile power line that would skirt the Adirondack Park cleared a major regulatory hurdle Monday.

The project, called the Champlain Hudson Power Express, is planned to run from the Canadian border to New York City. The power line would be completely buried underground, traveling underwater through Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, on the New York side of the river.

The U.S. Department of Energy issued its final environmental impact statement on Monday. Transmission Developers, an Albany-based company proposing the power line, saw the agency’s statement as progress.

“We are extremely pleased that, after years of comprehensive review, the Department of Energy has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement and concluded that the project can and should move forward,” Transmission Developers CEO Donald Jessome wrote in a press release. “We welcomed the review and dialogue it generated with federal and state agencies as well as local stakeholders.”

The power line has been in development since 2008. It plans to bring 1,000 megawatts of energy to the New York City area.

The construction of the Lake Champlain portion of the project would take approximately seven months to complete and would have an environmental impact, according to the report.

“Construction activities within Lake Champlain, the Hudson River and the other surface waters along the proposed CPHE Project route would result in temporary impacts on aquatic habitat and species due to sediment disturbance, habitat alteration, noise and vibration, and possible shock waves from blasting,” the U.S. Department of Energy report stated.

The report also said the operations are not expected to impact protected or sensitive species.

“Operations are not expected to result in reduced health or productivity of the Indiana bat or the northern long-eared bat,” the report said.

Bill Holland, program manager of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, said the environmental group has not weighed in officially on whether the project will be supported or opposed, but said he does expect an environmental impact.

“There will be many kinds of environmental decisions to make to minimize the impact,” Holland said. “There will be an impact on the organisms on the lake bottom and the water quality. If they do a really careful job, they will be paying close attention to those issues that I’ve mentioned.”

Holland also worries invasive species could travel on the construction crews equipment. However, Holland said an above-ground power line “could be far more damaging to the natural environment” on the land and for the water quality.

“I think that what we need to do is keep in mind that infrastructure improvements are going to need to happen and this could be low impact,” he said. “The company has made a case that they can manage these challenges. We’ll certainly be watching it.”

The project is expected to take four years, if it gets going. The company says the power lines will reduce energy costs for consumers by $650 million a year, if completed, and also create 300 new jobs.