CMP expansion approved in Orrington

Posted May 24, 2010, at 8:18 p.m.

ORRINGTON, Maine — Town planners last week endorsed the local portion of Central Maine Power Co.’s plans to upgrade its power grid, which will add nearly $10 million in property value to the Fields Pond Road substation, a company spokeswoman said.

CMP’s proposed upgrade and expansion plan, dubbed the Maine Power Reliability Program, would double the capacity of the electric grid’s approximately 485-mile backbone between Orrington and Eliot, where it connects to Newington, N.H.

Orrington is one of 81 cities and towns along the proposed expansion route, which for the most part will be built along the current transportation corridor, said Kay Rand of Bernstein Shur Governmental Solutions of Augusta.

“We are more than halfway through all our local permits,” she said Monday.

The expansion, if approved, would be CMP’s first major upgrade since 1971. The project would move and rebuild the existing 345-kilovolt transmission line to the eastern side of the corridor, add a new 345-kilovolt transmission line where the current line is located, and add a smaller 115-kilovolt transmission line on the west-ern side of the corridor.

Around 98 percent of the new construction will be adjacent to the current power grid, Rand said.

About 4.8 miles of the proposed expansion is in Orrington and includes improvements to the Fields Pond Road substation that are estimated to the cost $9.7 million, Rand has said.

“It’s a significant investment here in Orrington,” she said.

Fifty-one Orrington residents, who live adjacent to the corridor, were notified about last week’s planning board meeting, held May 20, where the endorsement was granted.

Code Enforcement Officer Richard Harriman, who also is the town assessor, said two residents were at the meeting.

“They were there to listen mostly,” he said Monday. The project “went through with very little discussion.”

CMP officials have been good about keeping residents and town officials informed about their plans, Harriman said.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Public Utilities Commission both have approved CMP’s $1.4 billion expansion, but company officials still are awaiting a final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The PUC-approved plan includes a pilot program for “smart grid” and nontransmission alternatives, $17 million for energy efficiency programs, creation of an ombudsman to resolve landowner issues, and additional money to support Maine’s participation in electricity transmission planning.

Maine ratepayers will pay for about 8 percent of the expansion cost, with the rest coming from users of the New England power grid, officials said.

The entire expansion project is expected to take around 4½ years to complete and require an average 2,100 employees, Rand said.

If all goes as planned, construction crews could start arriving in Orrington in the next four months.

“They should see some activity in the right of way this fall,” Rand said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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