Power line construction in Herkimer County is becoming more of a possibility as an Oct. 1 deadline for developers' proposals near.
Last Tuesday, a public notice was published in the Observer-Dispatch regarding North America Transmission Corp.'s power line proposal, and last Thursday, Herkimer County officials met with representatives of NextEra Energy Transmission to hear about its proposal.
“I think there are going to be some people who are going to have some outcry on this one,” said county Legislator Robert Schrader, R-Herkimer. “We send everything down there. We send our water, we send our power. I just don't see how it's going to benefit us.”
The two proposals are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Energy Highway initiative, and are geared toward relieving congestion at the Marcy substation.
“I think the key element in the path is that they're still preliminary,” said Lawrence Willick, senior vice president at LS Power - an affiliate of North America Transmission. “There's still several years of public input process before they get finalized.”
Willick said he was unsure of whether the state Public Service Commission - which has the final say on which company will be the developer - will have public hearings prior to the selection of the developer.
NextEra Energy representatives also said much the same to county officials during their meeting, noting they have several alternative paths that could be used.
NextEra Energy's initial plan was to run the line along the existing right of way through Deerfield and Marcy, then on to Schuyler, Frankfort, German Flatts, Little Falls, Danube and Stark.
Now, the preferred route begins in Marcy and would run through the towns of Schuyler, Herkimer, Little Falls and Manheim, according to maps provided by Next-Era.
Steve Stengel, communications director for NextEra, said the previous route would have meant taking down existing lines, which made it less desirable. Most of it is agricultural land and there are fewer gas pipelines in the area, he added.
“From an environmental perspective as well as from a constructability perspective, that northern route seems to make more sense,” he said.
Meanwhile, North America Transmission has a clearer path.
Maps provided by the company indicate that the proposed path would run east to Schuyler before heading south downstate. It would go through the towns of Marcy, Deerfield, Schuyler, Frankfort, Litchfield and Columbia and into Otsego County.
“This still isn't the exact route,” Willick said. “This is our proposed route.”
Both developers also emphasized that they'd be building parallel to existing power lines.
Back in 2006, New York Regional Interconnect proposed a 190-mile power line that would follow the New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad's tracks that go through several communities in Oneida County.
Page 2 of 2 - Fears mounted in Herkimer County that an alternative route along Marcy South could be proposed after Oneida County gained traction in attempting to staunch NYRI's proposal.
For many Herkimer County officials, the frustration of having all the negative impacts with none of the benefits is what fuels the opposition to this new wave of proposals.
“I'm sick of being the sponge of the state,” Schrader said. “We have people absorbing this stuff. They're not doing anything about helping us out here.”
Even though there are subsidies that would be provided to communities where the power lines would be erected, Schrader said it's not enough.
For the town of Litchfield, the council is waiting on a formal proposal.
Litchfield Town Supervisor James Entwistle said they're “playing it by ear” when it comes to the proposals milling about the area.
“It's just a waiting game at this point,” he said.
“It's just frustrating because there's nothing we can do,” Manheim Town Supervisor John Haughton said Tuesday. “The decision is out of our hands. The Public Service Commission will determine if and when these lines are built.”
Haughton added if a project is approved, he would hope the town and county would receive some benefit from having the transmission lines in their community.
“It doesn't seem right that our rates could potentially go up when the transmission lines will not benefit anyone in the town of Manheim or Herkimer County,” he said. “I hope when the time for public comment and negotiations come that this is taken into consideration. If these lines are going to be built in our town and county, then we should receive some type of benefit. The people downstate should not receive all the benefits.”
GateHouse New York reporter Rob Juteau contributed to this article