Power line developer sweetens offer to Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — Representatives of the companies proposing a $600 million underground power line that would run through Ferrisburgh told about 20 residents and officials on Thursday they were prepared to pay the town at least $350,000 a year for 20 years on top of an estimated $150,000 a year in local taxes the project would generate.
According to a document displayed at the evening meeting in the town office building’s community center, the companies would also “escalate that payment by a mutually agreed index.”
In response to a question, officials from the companies who are proposing the Vermont Green Line power line also said they would be open to discussing with the Ferrisburgh selectboard a longer payment term than 20 years.
According to project officials, the 400-megawatt line that would run from Kingsland Bay to Route 7 and then on to New Haven would also generate $900,000 in school taxes, which go to the Vermont Education Fund.
In a response to a question from Ferrisburgh lister Carl Cole, one company official estimated the value of improvements in Ferrisburgh to be roughly $50 million. Cole said that figure equaled about 10 percent of the town’s current grand list.
Anbaric Transmission, an independent company that specializes in high-voltage energy-transmission projects and is based in Wakefield, Mass., and National Grid, a Waltham, Mass., firm that transmits electricity and natural gas to customers in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, are proposing the 400MW Vermont Green Line.
The Vermont Green Line would include 60 miles of cable that would run from a converter station in Beekmantown, N.Y., under Lake Champlain, and then underground along roadways through Ferrisburgh to Route 7, and from there south to a converter station near Route 17 in New Haven.
According to National Grid’s Joseph Rossignoli on Thursday, most of the power would come from proposed and existing wind and solar farms in upstate New York and go into the larger New England grid, including Vermont.
Rossignoli said demand for the renewable energy is stronger in New England than in New York because regulators in New England require utilities to provide higher percentages of renewable energy, such as wind and solar.
The power the 400MW line would carry in a year, Rossignoli said, would equal half of Vermont’s annual needs.
At a September Ferrisburgh selectboard meeting, Anbaric’s Bryan Sanderson said if all permits and a Vermont Public Service Board Certificate of Public Good are obtained for the Vermont Green Line, construction of the project could begin in late 2017 or early 2018 and be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.
In Ferrisburgh, the line would come ashore at Kingsland Bay and run south along Kingsland Bay Road to Hawkins Road, jog briefly west on that road to Sand Road, head south on Sand Road to Little Chicago Road, east on that road to Botsford Road, and then east on Tuppers Crossing to Route 7.
The line would stay on Route 7, passing briefly through Waltham to New Haven.
Project consulting engineer and planner Galen Guerrero-Murphy of TRC Environmental Corp. said after that meeting that route in Ferrisburgh avoided state wildlife areas and difficult crossings over Little Otter and South Slang creeks.
Rossignoli said the companies remained open to considering alternative routes if the town preferred.
“We can have a look at that, absolutely,” he said.
Sanderson on Thursday said the project goal was to find the best and quickest route from Lake Champlain, where the line will be buried under the lake bottom, to Route 7.
The companies determined the proposed Ferrisburgh route was the “most buildable, least impactful way to go,” he said.
Sanderson also repeated the companies’ pledge to restore the landscape to its prior condition when the project was complete, stating there would be “no lasting impact except the tax impacts.”
One change from the plan the company floated in September is that they now are proposing burying the line under the roadbed itself, not along the road shoulder.
Rossignoli said plans call for the roads to be paved “curb to curb” when the line was buried in a concrete casing four feet deep and two feet wide. Every 2,500 feet along the way a small roadside “splice box” will be needed, he said, because the line is delivered in chunks that long.
Rossignoli pledged “collaborativeness” in working with Ferrisburgh, and the companies pledged more public meetings, the next of which they said would be a sit-down with the selectboard to negotiate further the terms they proposed on Thursday.
“If a host community doesn’t want a project, then we don’t build the project,” he said, before going on to describe the companies proposed “benefits package” as “a good starting point for Ferrisburgh.”
Rossignoli added that a nonprofit company affiliated with the project would earn a share of the profits and would work to help those in need in towns along the route, possibly with fuel aid or weatherization projects.
The proposals Anbaric and National Grid floated on Thursday significantly upped the ante from September, when Sanderson discussed a $60,000 local tax increase and to-be-determined payments for use of the town’s highway rights of way.
New Haven, with the more significant impact of a converter station, is being offered $700,000 a year on top of increased tax revenue.
In response to other questions, Anbaric and National Grid officials said that:
•  The portion of the line under water in Kingsland Bay would not affect boat moorings or anchoring. “It’s incumbent on us to protect our line,” Sanderson said.
•  They would not join with another similar effort further south in Rutland. “We looked at what we thought was the best way,” Rossignoli said.
•  They would need “temporary work space” agreements from some landowners along the route as well as the central agreement with the town to work in road rights of way.
•  They were leaning toward not laying an 800-megawatt line to provide for future expansion. Rossignoli said the cost of the larger line was a small factor, but the potential expense of larger converter stations at either end was more of an issue.
•  Pledged to hold future public meetings in addition to sitting down with the selectboard. They also said project information could be found at vermontgreenline.com.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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