Waltham selectboard eyes revenue from power line, supports ‘green line’ proposal

WALTHAM — The Waltham selectboard came away from a Dec. 7 meeting with representatives of the companies proposing the Vermont Green Line saying it would recommend the town support the planned $600 million, 400-megawatt underground power line that would run from Beekmantown, N.Y., to New Haven.
“Our board was supportive of the plan,” said selectboard chairman Mike Grace in an email to the Independent. “We just wanted to get enough information to answer any questions at town meeting.”
On its way from Beekmantown (near Plattsburgh) to New Haven, the power line is proposed to run under Lake Champlain, surface in Ferrisburgh, head southeast along six miles of Ferrisburgh roads to Route 7, run south along Route 7 for about three miles in Ferrisburgh and one mile in Waltham to New Haven, where it would end at a new converter station.
The line is intended to carry wind and hydro power from northern New York and Quebec to the New England market.
In Ferrisburgh, the Vermont Green Line (VGL) companies — Anbaric Transmission, a Wakefield, Mass., firm that specializes in high-voltage energy-transmission projects, and National Grid, a Waltham, Mass., firm that transmits electricity and natural gas to customers around the Northeast — are estimating nine miles of power line will add $50 million to the grand list and generate about $150,000 in local property taxes and $900,000 in state school tax revenue.
Plans in Ferrisburgh call for the line to be buried under the paved surfaces of the town roads, and then along the side of Route 7. In Waltham, the line will be buried for one mile along the state highway. 
Waltham officials said the issue was raised on Dec. 7 whether the town or state rights of way at the intersections of Plank and South Middlebrook roads with Route 7 take precedence, a question that could have financial implications for Waltham. 
At this point, VGL spokesperson Alexandra MacLean said the VGL companies believe that the tax revenue the project will provide will be generous enough to compensate Waltham.
“The portion of Vermont Green Line that runs through Waltham will be almost entirely within State Route 7’s right-of-way,” MacLean wrote in an email. “We feel our property tax assessment will be fair compensation for the town.”
MacLean said they had looked into the issue of the competing rights of way at the intersections.
“We expect to stay out of town right of way in Waltham, including where state roads intersect with town roads,” she wrote.
The VGL companies have made substantial offers to Ferrisburgh and New Haven, where the VGL impact is unquestionably more substantial, above and beyond tax revenue. The latest offers are $350,000 a year to Ferrisburgh for 20 years, including for town rights of way, and $1 million a year, including tax revenue, for 20 years to New Haven for purchasing town rights of way and hosting the converter station.
Meanwhile, it also remains unknown on which side of Route 7 the line will run and thus which set of Waltham landowners will be affected — the companies will also be negotiating with private landowners for rights of way.
“The Vermont Green Line is in discussions with both VTrans and ANR (Agency of Natural Resources) on this subject as well,” MacLean wrote.
Plans call for the power line to be installed in a trench four feet deep and two feet wide and require 120-square-foot junction boxes every 2,500 feet, including two in Waltham. The companies told a gathering in New Haven last week those boxes would be buried (see story, Page 1).
Vermont Green Line officials told the Waltham selectboard last week that they hope to reach a 20-year agreement with the town, that if all goes well with negotiations and permitting they hope to start the project in 2017, and that the work in Waltham would take between four and six weeks.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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