December 2, 2008, The Oneonta Daily Star: Opponents seek NYRI line below the ground underground

Opponents seek NYRI line below the ground underground

By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau

December 02, 2008 04:00 am

NYRI's opponents have asked the state's Public Service Commission to consider running the proposed 400,000-volt power line underground through Otsego and Delaware counties.

CARI, an umbrella group of opponents, suggests the massive new electric line, the above-ground cost of which has been estimated at $2 billion, could follow the route of the Marcy South power line, or alternatively trace the New York State Thruway.

Marcy South is a controversial 345,000-volt power line that has been operating since the late 1980s. It runs through the towns of Richfield, Exeter, Burlington, New Lisbon, Laurens, Oneonta, Franklin, Delhi, Colchester and Downsville on its way from Oneida to Orange counties.

New York Regional Interconnect Inc. proposes building a new line along a different route from Oneida to Orange counties. Its 10-story-tall towers would cut through Chenango and Delaware counties, following rights-of-way owned by the New York Susquehanna & Western Railway and NYSEG for much of the route.

Opponents say the project is not needed, but if allowed, should follow an existing corridor. Communities Against Regional Interconnect made the formal suggestion this week in a submission to the PSC. The group has representatives from eight counties.

``I want to stress that we don't think NYRI is needed or well-designed, but if they have to run it, it would make more sense to follow an existing path,'' Eve Ann Shwartz, co-chairwoman of Stop NYRI Inc., said Friday.

Stop NYRI is a part of CARI.

``And if they have to do it, do it right this time. Put it underground,'' she said.

By burying the line, she said, the firm would avoid permanently scarring the landscape, depressing land values, and would minimize health risks to those who live nearby.

``If they chose to go along the Marcy South route, maybe they could run both lines underground and get rid of the eyesore,'' Shwartz added.

NYRI spokesman David Kalson said Monday that running the line undergound is ``cost prohibitive and not technically feasible.

``Setting aside technical hurdles, on the cost issue alone, even if you took the lowest CARI figures, the line would still be twice as expensive as an above-ground line _ obviously an important factor in the PSC's decision-making process.''

James Powers, R-Butternuts, chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, said he didn't need to see the proposal to comment.

``We don't want NYRI in this county, and if they come this way, they'll have their hands full,'' he said. ``If the need is more power downstate, they should build more generating capacity downstate.''

New Lisbon Town Supervisor Robert Taylor, whose 240-acre farm adjoins Marcy South, said he liked the idea of burying the line if regulators determine a new transmission line is needed.

``That way, at least, there would be a lot less distress after they're done,'' he said.

Taylor said he couldn't comment on CARI's proposal before reading it, but he could see the logic of following an existing corridor rather condemning more land.

Shwartz said technological advances have greatly reduced the cost of burying lines. It might cost twice as much to bury a line initially, but the long-term benefits are worth it, she said.

Public comment about NYRI's project has been overwhelmingly negative at hearings held by the PSC. If another route were seriously considered, she said, the PSC would likely schedule more hearings in those areas.

NYRI's backers have said their project would help alleviate ``congestion'' by moving cheaper power from upstate New York to New York City. At one time, they estimated the project would raise the cost of wholesale electricity in upstate New York, but Kalson has said company experts no longer believe this would happen.

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