CHINA — Residents asked questions about a $26 million plan by Central Maine Power Co. to upgrade its transmission lines, but the project yielded no opposition at a public hearing Tuesday.

About a dozen residents turned out for the hearing hosted by the Planning Board and held at the town office.

Central Maine Power wants to upgrade its lines along a 10-mile stretch through town, and has purchased property and easements to make that possible.

The project’s transmission lines enter China from Windsor, traverse U.S. Route 3 just west of Dirigo Corner, cross over Alder Park Road near the town landfill and then continue north to Albion.

The Planning Board is considering approving a conditional use permit for the project and expects to make a decision next month. Central Maine Power hopes to start work in China this fall.

It is part of a $1.4 billion project involving dozens of towns and covering about 450 miles of transmission lines, according to John Carroll, a spokesman for the company.

Douglas Ide, of TRC Companies, Inc., of Augusta, is handling permitting issues for the power company. Ide told the Planning Board Tuesday that permits have been issued by 69 of 75 towns that require them. Some communities require no permits, he said. The project encompasses communities from Orrington to the north, Eliot to the south and Rumford to the West.

Carroll said Wednesday that the goal is to upgrade the transmission lines so they meet federal standards of reliability. He said 185 miles of 345,000 volt lines will be constructed, as well as 255 miles of 115 volt lines. “We call these lines the backbone,” he said.

The power company started planning the project in 2006 and broke ground in October, he said.

China Code Enforcement Officer Scott Pierz and Ide said the state Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers and Public Utilities Commission have approved the project.

If the China permit is approved, workers will start clearing trees in late fall; probably November, Ide said.

Tim Greene of Lakeview Drive wanted to know if the town sold any land to CMP along the corridor.

“We did not purchase land or easements from the town,” Ide replied.

Mark Goodwin, environmental manager for Burns & McDonnell, of New Gloucester, said environmental inspections are conducted as part of the plans. Goodwin, whose company is managing the project, said Pierz is welcome to do inspections also.

“We certainly encourage the town code enforcement officers to be involved, if they feel they need to be,” he said.

Planning Board Chairman Ronald Breton asked about animal habitats affected by the plans — particularly osprey nests.

“In China, there are, surprisingly, no osprey nests in the corridor,” Ide said.

But Patience-Anne Lenk, who owns property on Dutton Road, said there is an osprey nest on a pole near her property. Ide said he will check on that nest. CMP deals with osprey nests all the time, he said.

“If a pole needs to be replaced for whatever reason and there’s an osprey nest on it, CMP has to deal with it,” he said.

Goodwin said osprey nests can be active and inactive. An active nest has eggs or chicks in it. If a nest is active, it is left in place until the chicks leave the nest, he said. A pole scheduled for demolition is removed when it is inactive, but if a “schedule snafu” arises and a pole needs to come down, it is removed, even with an active nest on it, he said. A series of steps must be taken first, however.

Ospreys are prolific nest builders and when a nest is removed, they will build another one within five days, usually on a nearby pole, he said.

Ide said the power company bought 39 parcels of varying sizes to accommodate the work.

Carroll, of the power company, said Wednesday that the project is paid for by company customers throughout New England as it is considered an improvement to the New England grid. Maine residents will pay 8 percent of the project’s cost, he said.

The impact of the project is enormous, he said, and creates an economic stimulus for Maine. More than 175 companies are working on it already. A recent analysis estimated the project will create 2,100 new jobs a year, peaking at 3,300 jobs in 2013, according to Carroll.

“It is an enormous effort, and most of them are direct jobs,” he said. “One-third are indirect jobs affecting suppliers, mom and pop filling stations, people sharpening chain saws.”

Albion, Benton, Clinton and Pittsfield are also included in the project.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]



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