An affiliate of Central Maine Power Co. has lined up contracts totaling more than $300 million for work on its planned transmission corridor through western Maine, even after failing thus far to stop an upcoming voter referendum aimed at scuttling the project.

New England Clean Energy Connect LLC, or NECEC, has awarded contracts to Maine-based Cianbro Corp. in a joint venture with Irby Construction, Sargent Electric and Northern Clearing Inc. to build and upgrade the transmission corridor and provide land clearing for the planned project, the company said Wednesday.

NECEC said that Sargent Electric and NCI both have a significant employee presence in Maine and are IBEW Local 104 union contractors. It said the companies will subcontract work to other Maine-based suppliers, contractors and consultants, with preference for hiring Maine workers when possible.

Cianbro is Maine’s largest general contractor. It will work with Mississippi-based transmission builder Irby Construction to construct the high-voltage, direct current transmission line, which would run 145 miles from the Canadian border to Lewiston.

The line would carry hydroelectric power generated by dams in Quebec to a substation in Lewiston, where it would be fed into the regional grid and sent to Massachusetts. The two companies had teamed up to construct the $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Project, which was completed in 2015. As part of the NECEC contract, the firms expect to hire 260 employees.

Sargent Electric will perform transmission line upgrades required for the project, specifically on a segment from Wiscasset to Windsor and others in the Lewiston-Auburn area.


NCI will provide all clearing and access road improvement work and may employ as many as 350 workers, according to the announcement.

The NECEC announcement comes as opponents continue efforts to derail the project at the ballot box.

The opposition group No CMP Corridor delivered about 82,500 signatures to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office in February in support of a voter referendum seeking to stop the project. Groups must gather at least 63,067 valid signatures to get a referendum question on the ballot in Maine.

If approved by voters, the referendum is intended force the Maine Public Utilities Commission to reverse its May 2019 decision that the corridor project is in the interests of the state, thus halting any construction on the project. A referendum forcing an apolitical regulatory group to reverse a prior decision would be unprecedented in Maine.

A court-ordered review led to a final count of 16,332 signatures being invalidated for various reasons, but there were still enough valid signatures to clear the 63,067-signature hurdle by 3,050.

The review corroborated a lawsuit’s claims that some notaries hired by opponents of the project violated state law by engaging in other campaign activities, and that some of the signatures were forged.


Legal challenges are ongoing, however, with a final Superior Court decision expected next Monday.

Last month, the Portland Press Herald detailed how the project was continuing to spend tens of millions of dollars to prepare for construction, despite the opposition.

NECEC has received permits from a number of state agencies and said it expects to gain additional permits required to begin construction this summer. The company said it still plans to complete construction in 2022.

CMP contends the project, funded by Massachusetts ratepayers, would benefit Maine and the region by lowering carbon emissions, reducing fossil fuel usage and stabilizing electricity costs. But opponents say the project would create environmental damage and hurt homegrown solar, wind and biomass projects in Maine.

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