Representatives from Transmission Developers Inc. held a public meeting in Plattsburgh Oct. 1 to discuss plans for a proposed underwater power transmission cable which will traverse the length of Lake Champlain.
The project, dubbed the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) Project, will bring hydro and wind generated electricity from Quebec to New York City. About two dozen people were on hand for the forum, many representing green groups who were interested in learning what impact the $2.2 billion privately funded project would have on the lake.
The 333-mile transmission line will carry 1,000 megawatts of direct current electricity.
The project is slated to start by 2015, if Transmission Development is granted a go-ahead by the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers. All state permits are already in place. They hope to be generating power by 2018.
“Taken together (Lake Champlain and the Hudson River) we will be the longest, or close to the longest underwater cable in the world,” said William Helmer, Executive Vice President and General Counsel with Transmission Developers.
He added that the technology involved in running underwater cable is 60 to 70 years old.
According to Ed Alkiewicz, Senior Environmental Scientist for Aecom, a company working with Transmission Developers Inc., the project’s route is being determined in part by historically significant locations in the lake.
“We conducted surveys in 2010 and 2012 for shipwrecks and other cultural resources in conjunction with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and the cable’s route was changed to take those into account,” he said.
Sludge beds adjacent to International Paper in Ticonderoga are also a subject of concern for the cable route. Project engineers are in talks with International Paper about that issue, according to Rick Chase, Senior Public Affairs Consultant with Transmission Developers Inc. The proposed route was also changed to avoid PCB contamination near Troy.
In areas where sub-marine burial is not possible, the cable will primarily follow railroad rights of way.
One issue which has not been resolved yet is how the cable will traverse the remnants of a Revolutionary War defensive wall of pickets near Fort Ticonderoga, which crosses the width of the lake on the lake floor. Similar fortifications exist in the Hudson River north of West Point.
The cable will be buried an average of four feet deep, to protect it from boat anchors and other possible damage. At depths of more than 150 feet, the cable will be laid on the lake bed without burying.
According to Chase, local union labor will be used for the construction of the barge used to lay the cable, and the actual laying of the cable. They anticipate the project to employ an average of 300 people at any given time, with up to 600 at peak construction.
As part of the licensing agreement, Transmission Developers has created a $117 million Environmental Trust Fund to, among other things, study and monitor water quality issues, possible fish habitat destruction, and invasive species. $2.5 million will be available at the financial close of the project, with the remainder slated to be paid out over the next 35 years.
There are no plans in place to tap into the line to provide power for this region.
There has been jurisdictional wrangling between some local municipalities and the state of New York over who owns the property on the lake bottom that the cable will traverse, and thus who will benefit from a change in tax assessment.