National Park Service employee discusses power line proposal with Warren County freeholders

Thursday, October 15, 2009
By BILL WICHERT
The Express-Times

WHITE TWP. | A National Park Service employee told Warren County freeholders Wednesday that the federal agency is preparing to accept public input on and review environmental impacts of a proposed 130-mile power line passing through Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

County freeholders questioned whether the final decision on the plan would be compromised by politics on the federal level.

"I think they're going through the process, but I think the decision will be made in Washington, D.C., and it's probably going to be a political one rather than an environmental one," county Freeholder Everett Chamberlain said during Wednesday's meeting.

Patrick Lynch, chief of resource management and science for the Delaware Water Gap park, had told freeholders earlier that scientists must weigh the needs for the energy supply against the effects on the surrounding environment.

"We are very concerned about the potential adverse impacts to park resources and the effects that that would have on the values and visitation in the park," Lynch said. "We're unbiased in our view of this."

Driven by a growing demand for electricity, Allentown-based PPL Corp. and PSE& G in Newark are looking to extend a 500-kilovolt line from the Berwick, Pa., area, where PPL operates a nuclear power plant, to Roseland, Essex County. Utility agencies in both states are reviewing the proposal.

In New Jersey, a portion stretching between 40 and 50 miles would follow an existing 230-kilovolt line through the Water Gap area in Hardwick Township east through Sussex County to Jefferson Township, Morris County. The route continues east to Montville Township, N.J., and turns south to Roseland.

Before the National Park Service issues the necessary permits to conduct the work, public meetings are expected to be held early next year, while an environmental analysis is conducted, Lynch said. A final decision is expected to be made in May 2012, he said.

After Freeholder Director Rick Gardner pointed out that power company officials expect to complete the project in 2012, Lynch responded: "As our federal solicitor advised them, you do that at your risk."

Hardwick Township Mayor Kevin Duffy also appeared before the freeholders Wednesday to share concerns about the proposed project.

The project, which is inconsistent with the state's overall plan to reduce energy demand, could cut into the economics of recreation and tourism and affect local roads and public safety during construction, Duffy said.

The 195-foot-high power lines would "forever alter ... the scenic views, the vistas that are available in this part of the county."

Reporter Bill Wichert can be reached at 610-258-7171, ext. 3570, or by e-mail at bwichert@express-times.com


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