Power line talks moving forward in Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — While some specifics of negotiations between Ferrisburgh officials and the companies proposing a major new underground power line from New York state to New Haven will probably remain undisclosed, selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the issue will be discussed at the board’s Tuesday meeting.
Lawrence said residents will be able to learn more on Tuesday about where things stand with the town and the proposal to run some of the 60-mile, $650 million Vermont Green Line (VGL for short) underground along Ferrisburgh roads.
At the meeting, the board-appointed committee that has been negotiating with VGL officials will give an update to the selectboard about the memorandum of understanding the parties are working on.
“We did put it on the board agenda, and it is subject to discussion,” Lawrence said, adding that the town attorney is now reviewing a draft memorandum.
That memorandum of understanding could contain significant compensation to Ferrisburgh for allowing work in town road rights of way.
At a November meeting in Ferrisburgh VGL representatives said they would pay the town at least $350,000 a year for 20 years on top of the estimated $150,000 a year in local property taxes the project would generate, and left the door open for further negotiations.
The developers of the proposed 400-megawatt VGL, Massachusetts companies Anbaric Transmission and National Grid, hope to bring hydro and wind power from upstate New York by cable under Lake Champlain and into the New England power grid via a converter station now planned in New Haven.
They plan to bring the Vermont Green Line on shore in Ferrisburgh and run it along several back roads to Route 7, and from there to New Haven, where there has been some opposition.
Middlebury has also recently made a pitch as the host town for the converter station now planned for New Haven. New Haven and VGL officials are now negotiating a possible deal that would be subject to a town vote. Middlebury selectmen unanimously backed a potential deal, which could mean a boost to an 800-megawatt line if VGL officials choose that route.
In Ferrisburgh, a four-person negotiating committee including Selectman Steve Gutowski and Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission Chairman Craig Heindel has been working on a tentative deal with the VGL firms.
Lawrence said progress has been made, calling talks “serious,” but still “in the beginning stages.”
“I guess I’m cautious, but optimistic,” she said. “We’re starting to understand what needs to be done in a timely manner.”
Lawrence said Ferrisburgh’s negotiating committee on Tuesday will ask for selectboard approval to use town attorney James Carroll as legal counsel; to hire civil engineers to provide review of the VGL proposal, including the cost estimate; to hire an appraiser to provide tax revenue analysis of the project; and to engage an electrical engineer “to be determined at a later date if needed” to review potential impact of electro-magnetic fields caused by the buried cable.
At least verbally, none of those requests will cost Ferrisburgh any cash.
“The VGL has agreed to pay all these costs directly and timely, but we don’t have that in writing yet,” Lawrence said.
VGL officials have said that if the project can obtain its Certificate of Public Good and all other needed permits, construction could begin in late 2017 or early 2018 and be completed in about two years.
In Ferrisburgh, the line would be buried in a two-foot-by-four-foot concrete box along Kingsland Bay, Sand, Little Chicago and Botsford roads and Tuppers Crossing on the way to Route 7 from Kingsland Bay, where it would surface after entering Lake Champlain near Beekmantown, N.Y.
Junction boxes, about 120 square feet, will be needed along the road about every 2,500 feet to hold line splices.
According to Ferrisburgh minutes, at a Feb. 25 meeting with town officials and project abutters, VGL pledged not to use eminent domain to take any property and to pay for the town’s “legal, technical, and engineering costs.” Gutowski said in March those items were being worked on in the memorandum of understanding.
Gutowski said town officials would also like the companies to pay for fixing culverts along the route as needed, and road foreman John Bull was working on a culvert inventory for that purpose.
Other items to be negotiated include locations where the lines will cross roads, construction techniques, restoration of affected land, easement language, and, of course, final compensation for Ferrisburgh.
Once a final deal is reached in Ferrisburgh, Gutowski said, the selectboard would listen to residents on whether to hold a vote, even if so far officials had heard questions about the power line, but little opposition.
Moving forward, Lawrence said, the selectboard wants to keep residents more in the loop on the VGL companies, at least as much as possible.
“We hope at the April 5th meeting, when this all comes up, to address some town concerns, and to let people know when the meetings are,” Lawrence said. “I don’t know if they are executive sessions or not, but we just want to make information more available as it comes along,”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: