NEW YORK STATE ELECTRIC & GAS CORPORATION (NYSEG)
COLUMBIA COUNTY TRANSMISSION PROJECT
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the Columbia County Transmission Project?
11.1 miles of new, 115 kilovolt (115-kV) above-ground electric transmission lines and related facilities in the Towns of Stockport, Ghent and Chatham.
2. That seems like a long way, how is it broken down?
2.5 miles of transmission lines to be erected in a new, 100’ wide right-of-way (a/k/a a cleared path) to connect the existing National Grid transmission line near Stockport to a new “switching station” of unknown dimensions proposed to be constructed on approximately 2-acres in an active agricultural field in the Town of Ghent. That’s the first segment.
From the new switching station, another 8.6 miles of new, above-ground transmission lines would extend to an expanded, 36’ x 32’ (three-story) Klinekill Substation just east of Route 203 and north of Shufelt Road in the Town of Chatham. That’s the second segment.
Of the 8.6 miles of transmission lines between the new Ghent switching station and the expanded Klinekill substation in the Town of Chatham, approximately 5.5 miles will be in a newly cleared, 100’ right-of-way. In the other 3.1 miles, the existing, 50’ wide utility right-of-way will be expanded by another 50’ to create a 100’ wide pathway.
Overall, approximately 103.6 acres of land will be cleared, built-on or otherwise affected by the transmission line portion of the Project.
See the google map
3. That seems like a lot of land. Is there more?
Yes. The Project also needs new access roads to get to the new right-of-way, as well as what are called “lay-down and staging areas.” We do not know how much additional land is required for those areas.
4. What do the poles look like?
The pole design varies, but just about all of them are proposed to be 70’ (seven stories) tall, wooden structures. Some will be even taller, and they will be spaced approximately 300’ – 400’ apart across the landscape. View the pole profiles here.
“While the average height of structures is approximately 70 feet a few individual structures that are significantly taller will be required to maintain required clearances to existing transmission lines and other features.” Excerpt from the Design Drawing document
With the outstretched arms that are required to string the wires (called “circuits”) the equipment at the top of the poles will be anywhere from approximately 4 feet to 14 feet wide.
5. Does 70 ‘ tell the whole story on height?
Definitely not. The poles will be constructed on rolling topography. A 70’ utility pole constructed in the bottom of a valley can look quite a bit different than a 70’ utility structure constructed on a hilltop.
6. Does NYSEG own all the land it needs to build the Project? If not, how can this Project be built?
No. It owns almost none of it. NYSEG will be required to negotiate easements with the landowners along the route, or otherwise acquire the land.
7. What if I don’t want to give NYSEG an easement to run its wires across my land?
As an electric utility, NYSEG has the power of eminent domain, i.e., the power to take your property involuntarily and pay you what a Court deems to be its “fair market value.”
8. Can’t I just tell the Court not to take my land? I mean, its mine after all. Don’t I have rights?
Yes, you have the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard. But so long as NYSEG can demonstrate that it intends to put your land to a “public use,” which it undoubtedly can, the Courts have very little power to stop the taking, even if you oppose it, assuming NYSEG complies with the law’s public notice and hearing procedures (which are pretty basic). You will need a lawyer to participate meaningfully in the eminent domain process. NYSEG will certainly have theirs ready to go.
9. What has NYSEG said about where the line might go?
One of NYSEG’s engineers, Jeff McKinney, recently stated: “The line can go through Grandma’s house. I don’t care.”
10. Apart from private lands, what else is at stake?
According to NYSEG’s application, there are, within three miles of the new transmission line, 8 properties that are either listed or eligible to be listed on the National and/or State Registers of Historic Places, 15 local recreational areas, 2 state parks, 1 state scenic resource, 1 proposed state trail, 1 national park, 1 national wildlife refuge, 1 American Heritage River and the Taconic Parkway. It is also located within three miles of three different subunits of designated Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance (SASS).
The Project also wends its way through large swaths of Columbia County Agricultural District No. 10, and through scenic and recreational areas that are covered by easements held by the Columbia County Land Conservancy.
11. My family and friends like to spend time at Art Omi. Will it be affected?
Yes. NYSEG proposes to route its new line directly through Art Omi’s property. (The red pin below is where Ledig house, visitors housing and the swimming pool, used for the summer art camp, is located)
The new line will also cross the Siegel-Kline Kill recreational area.
12. What about wetlands?
The Project will impact, to varying degrees, approximately 3-acres of New York State wetlands or wetland buffer areas.
NYSEG did not include a delineation of federal wetlands in its application, so we don’t know how many acres of those might be impacted.
13. Will the new transmission lines be visible from all of these places?
That is unknown. NYSEG’s application does not include a visual impact simulation. Instead, it just says that the line won’t “cross” any of these areas, meaning that you won’t have to look up and see the line directly overhead. Whether it is visible from any of those areas, or interferes with views of them from other parts of the County, remains to be seen.
14. Doesn’t Stockport Road/County Route 22 run mostly parallel to where they want to put the new transmission line?
Yes, but NYSEG’s application does not discuss using that existing right-of-way as an alternative.
15. Aren’t there other reasonable alternatives?
Yes. First, NYSEG could connect its Klinekill Substation to National Grid’s Valatie Substation via an existing CSX railroad right-of-way. This alternative would require NYSEG to invest in some improvements to the National Grid substation, but would avoid substantially all of the Project’s potentially adverse impacts in the Towns of Stockport, Ghent and Chatham, without shifting those impacts elsewhere.
Second, transmission engineers retained by the Town of Ghent had identified and discussed with NYSEG a “low voltage” alternative, that would entail the construction of a new substation near National Grid’s existing 115 kV power line and the construction of two, much shorter, 34.5 kV lines from that substation to NYSEG’s existing line nearby. For reasons that NYSEG has never explained to anyone’s satisfaction, the company rejected that alternative. The so-called low voltage alternative NYSEG discusses in its application is not the same one that the Town had proposed, again for reasons that are unclear.
16. This just seems like a bad idea, why is NYSEG doing this?
NYSEG claims that under an extreme, “worst-case” scenario (referred to as a “contingency condition”) at its Craryville Substation, it would have to drop electric service (referred to as “load shedding”) to 9,900 customers until the “contingency condition” was cured.
17. Has that “contingency condition” ever actually presented itself at the Craryville Substation?
No, not as far as we know.
18. Do those 9,900 customers who might experience a power outage until the “contingency condition” was abated live here in Columbia County?
That is not clear from NYSEG’s application.
19. I’m going to contact my Town Board. Can’t they stop this under our local zoning or Comprehensive Plan?
You should contact your elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, as well as the Commissioners of the New York Public Service Commission (“PSC”) who are the only state agency officials with the direct power to stop or modify the Project (Case No. 12-T-0248). As to your local governments, however, NYSEG has asked the PSC to “waive,” i.e., not apply, any local laws, rules or regulations that might interfere with or impede their plans, which the PSC has the power to do.
20. What can I do?
If you are an individual resident of the Towns of Stockport, Ghent or Chatham, you have a legal right to be a “party” to the PSC proceeding and should assert that right.
Optionally you can download a party status request form in Word format here and mail it in. You can also get the form from the Art Omi Visitor Center.