TUPPER LAKE - State officials and environmentalists are teaming up to lobby the public in-favor of a pending amendment that would authorize the construction of a set of power lines which have already been built. But the potential for low voter turn-out has the involved parties concerned about the passage of the necessary land swap.
Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan and state Senator Betty Little have initiated campaigns to increase the state-wide awareness of the state Rte. 56 land swap amendment; intended to garner state-wide support. And in an off election year, finding rigorous voters is the strategy of choice.
"We will work to promote this in NYC, where Bloomberg is running for re-election and where turnout will be high," Sheehan said.
In May, National Grid flipped the switch on the lines running eastward from Colton and providing a new power source to Tupper Lake.
But the fact that the lines cross state forest preserve without a public referendum approving a constitutional amendment is in direct violation of Article 14 of the state constitution. Article 14 mandates that all forest preserve lands remain forever wild.
The majority of the lines run across private property or remain on the state Rte. 56 highway easement -- all except a short stretch between Stark Falls and Sevey Corners.
According to Sheehan, the six acres that would be sacrificed by the forest preserve by the amendment is far superior than the alternative. In order to avoid the forest preserve, a 3.5 mile detour would have been cut directly into the woods, encasing the preserve and creating a barrier to future forest growth.
"The only clear path available to avoid the strip of public lands would have required a 3.5-mile detour through a pristine white pine old-growth forest, through the state's best habitat for the endangered Spruce Grouse," Sheehan said in a prepared statement. "The route would cross 95 separate streams and wetlands. This would be a new maintenance road in the woods."
It makes practical sense for the people of Tupper Lake as well, he notes.
"Power outages over the past few winters have required the village to put people in shelters so they didn't freeze to death," he said. National Grid, the New York State Power Authority and the state Department of Environmental Conservation signed an agreement authorizing the construction in early 2008.
"DEC agrees to forebear enforcement against National Grid and the Power Authority to proceed so long as National Grid and the Power Authority are pursuing a constitutional amendment," the agreement states.
Little said things would get very complicated if the amendment failed. An amendment to the state constitution requires two separate passages in both legislative houses. The measure passed the state Senate and the Assembly for the second time last spring.
If successful, over 50 acres would be added to the forest preserve off of the highway.
It will be on the ballot state-wide on November 3.