May 23, 2020
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CMP affiliate awards $300M in contracts to build corridor amid referendum challenge

Courtesy of Central Maine Power
Courtesy of Central Maine Power
The lattice towers Central Maine Power said it is proposing for its New England Clean Energy Connect hydropower line from Canada to Lewiston.

The company behind the proposed $1 billion hydropower corridor from Canada through western Maine said Wednesday that it has awarded more than $300 million in contracts to build the project’s infrastructure.

NECEC LLC Transmission, a company formed to run the Central Maine Power Co. project, said it has awarded the contracts to Pittsfield-based Cianbro in a joint venture with Irby Construction of Mississippi, Sargent Electric of Pennsylvania and Northern Clearing Inc. of Wisconsin.

Those companies will build and upgrade the transmission infrastructure and clear land for the project. If the project gets all the required permits, NECEC plans to begin construction in the second quarter of this year and complete it in 2022.

Detractors question whether the project will provide much benefit to Maine and are concerned it might harm the environment. An anti-corridor group submitted enough signatures to get a referendum to stop the corridor on the November ballot. Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap upheld that decision last week after a court challenge from another CMP-affiliated group that awaits a judge’s approval.

Courtesy of Central Maine Power
Courtesy of Central Maine Power
The New England Clean Energy Connect project, a planned 145-mile transmission line that will run from Beattie Township on the Canadian border to Lewiston, aims to deliver hydropower to the New England electric grid. It is a collaboration between Central Maine Power and Hydro-Quebec.

However, the project continues to clear hurdles toward final approval on the regulatory side. In mid-March, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled against a challenge to a regulator’s approval of the project. NextEra Energy Resources appealed the certificate of public convenience and necessity that the Maine Public Utilities Commission granted last April.

The project also has approval from the Land Use Planning Commission, which governs the state’s Unorganized Territory, and preliminary approval with conditions from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The project also needs a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, a presidential approval and some local permits.

Thorn Dickinson, president and CEO of NECEC, said the project is expected to add more than $570 million to Maine’s economy. He said 1,600 jobs will be created annually during construction of the project.

The Cianbro-Irby joint venture will construct the high voltage DC transmission line that will run 145 miles from the Canadian border to a substation in Lewiston. The companies expect to hire 260 employees. They worked together to construct the $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Project that was completed in 2015.

“This is a significant contract for our company and our state,” Cianbro CEO Andi Vigue said in a prepared statement.

Sargent Electric will perform transmission line upgrades on a segment from Wiscasset to Windsor and in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Northern Clearing will clear forest and other growth and improve access roads. Northern Clearing plans to hire as many as 350 people for the project. It currently has several dozen employees in Maine.

Tim Burgess, assistant business manager of IBEW Local 104, said more than 70 percent of the workers from Sargent and Northern Clearing will be IBEW 104 members. The companies also will subcontract work to other Maine-based suppliers, contractors and consultants with preference for hiring Maine workers when possible, according to NECEC.


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