Final route selected for controversial power line project through part of northern Harford

Transource Energy has announced the routes that it will file with state regulators in Maryland and Pennsylvania for its Independence Energy Connection high voltage overhead electric transmission line project that has sparked community opposition in Harford County and neighboring York County, Pa.

The company had been looking for several routes to connect a new electric switching substation planned near the Susquehanna River in York County with the existing Conastone switching station near Norrisville in Harford County, a distance of about 16 miles. A similar connection is planned between switching facilities in south central Pennsylvania and Washington County, Md., near Smithsburg, about 29 miles.

The final proposed Harford County route unveiled by Transource Monday parallels Route 23 to the west for about 3 miles from the state line to Conastone Station.

Transource was contracted by PJM Interconnection, the regional power grid operator for the affected the area, to build the $320 million project.

In a news release, Transource stated that PJM identified the need for the infrastructure upgrade “to alleviate congestion on the high-voltage electric grid and benefit customers in the region, including parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland.”

Steve Herling, vice president of planning for PJM, which operates the power distribution grid for 65 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia, stated in a recent letter to The Aegis that the grid operator “performed extensive analysis of this highly congested area where limitations to move electricity efficiently have been a chronic problem.”

“This solution is the most reliable and cost effective and will save consumers millions in the long run,” Herling wrote of the IEC.

But opponents on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line that forms the border between northern Harford and southern York counties, have challenged both the need for the project and why Transource is not following existing power line routes.

“There have been no published studies to determine if the energy that is to be sent over the new transmission power line towers can be accommodated by the use of existing lines and towers,” Norrisville resident Aimee C. O’Neill wrote in a letter published by The Aegis last month.

O’Neill, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, is co-chair of a group formed this summer to oppose the project called Stop Transource Power Lines MD.

Harford County opponents who have spoken out publicly about the project, many of them landowners, say the proposed power lines will disrupt businesses and ruin the mainly rural appearance of the countryside and disrupt watersheds and wildlife habitat.

Opponents also say they believe some properties in agricultural preservation programs will be negatively affected by the new power lines.

Stop Transource Power Lines MD plan to hold an informational meeting Wednesday evening at Pond View Farm in White Hall to discuss the final power line route announcement and what steps to take next.

O’Neill and others in the organization have been critical of what they say has been a lack of interest among elected officials concerning the impact of the project, although the northern Harford area’s County Council representative, Chad Shrodes, has worked closely with the opponents all summer. The area’s state legislators also have attended one or more of the community meetings this summer.

The opposition group also has worked through the Jarrettsville/Norrisville Community Advisory Board to inform Harford County residents about the project and the reasons for its opposition.

Transource hosted two community information meetings about the project in Harford County over the summer, the last in Norrisville in August, which was attended by nearly 200 people.

The company stated in its news release that it presented more than 250 miles of route options in the east and west segments of the IEC project for review.

“The 10 events provided landowners and community members the opportunity to give detailed input to the project team,” the news release states. “All submitted input was incorporated into determining the final proposed routes.”

“Transource worked to balance the public input with a variety of factors such as existing land use, sensitive species and habitats, soils and topography, historic and cultural resources and the opportunity to parallel existing infrastructure,” the release continues.

The company also stated that in addition to routing options, it presented two tower structure options — lattice or monopole. The majority of comments received supported the monopole option, according to the company, and that is it what it will use, “except in areas where engineering or construction needs dictate another structure type.”

“By including community members in the siting process, rather than engaging them after decisions were made, we were able to consider and accommodate many landowner requests,” said Todd Burns, Transource director, in a statement.

“The input gathered over the last few months was a critical component of our decision-making process,” Burns continued. “We are confident that the route selection strikes the balance between building the required infrastructure that powers our homes and economy, while respecting land use and the environment in these communities. We look forward to continuing to work with these communities as an engaged partner as we move forward with the regulatory approval phase of the project.”

Transource said it is directly notifying involved landowners, as well as people who have been part of the community input process.

The project and the final routes for the power lines must still be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission. Transource said it plans to file applications with both by the end of the year.

Construction of the IEC is expected to begin in 2019, with a project in-service date of mid-2020, the company said.

Additional information can be found on the project website at www.TransourceEnergy.com/Projects/Independence.

Copyright © 2017, The Aegis, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
54°