Byram wants state to reject PSE&G's request for project exemption through Highlands
 

By BRUCE A. SCRUTON

bscruton@njherald.com

BYRAM -- The township, seeing "serious impacts" caused by construction of a 500,000-volt transmission line, wants the state to reject an application from Public Service Electric & Gas for an exemption on its project through the Highlands.

The state law that created the Highlands grants exemptions to utility companies for "routine maintenance and operations" on lines through the protected area, but the scope of this project, in Byram's view, falls far short of being considered routine.

The utility's request for the exemption was published Nov. 5 and the public has until Thursday to register comments on that request, known formally as a Highlands Applicability Determination.

Copies of PSE&G's application were filed with the clerks of the townships along the route within the Highlands, at the Highlands Council in Chester and with the state Department of Environmental Protection in Trenton.

This comment period is only for the utility's request for the exemption from Highlands regulations, which affects only about half of the 45-mile route of the proposed power line through New Jersey.

PSE&G also has said it will file an application through the state's Board of Public Utilities for the entire route. That filing is expected sometime early this month.

The proposed 500,000-volt line would follow the route of an existing 230,000-volt transmission line that comes into Sussex County in Stillwater then crosses parts of Fredon, Newton, Andover, Byram and Sparta before moving into Morris County. In addition to the line, PSE&G also is proposing a massive new substation on about 20 acres of land in Jefferson.

Most of the disturbance will be during construction as access roads are cut through forests, across wetlands and up steep slopes. In all, 75 new towers are proposed for the route through the Highlands, split about evenly between unipoles and lattice towers.

Once the new towers are in place, both lines will be strung on them and the existing towers will be removed.

Byram's letter takes issue with the company's description of the new access roads as a "temporary disturbance."

"Considering the width, grading and depth of the base required for the heavy equipment using these access roads, these definitions seem illogical," notes the letter which carries the signature of Township Manager Joseph Sabatini and contains comments from the town's Environmental Commission and professional engineering and planning staff.

The letter said the roads actually will "result in very substantial and long-lasting disturbance, which will take decades to ameliorate and a very prolonged period to fully repair."

It then added that that kind of description "is not credible and appears to be an attempt to circumvent a truthful examination of this issue under the Highlands review."

While the town takes issue with the "persisting scars to the landscape" created by the access roads, it also notes the new towers will be twice as tall as existing structures, therefore visible from more property, and PSE&G "fails to address the impact upon scenic resources" and notes several hundred Byram homeowners will be impacted by the "distinctly unscenic qualities of towers."

Get a copy

In addition to the official copies of PSE&G's application filed with town clerks, the Highlands Council and state Department of Environmental Protection, an

unofficial copy can be viewed online at www.northbyram.org/routeb/pdf/pseg_had.pdf.

Comments about the application may be e-mailed to Terry Pilawski at terry.pilawski@dep.state.nj.us or by regular mail to her as chief, Division of Watershed Management, Bureau of Watershed Regulation, P.O. Box 418, Trenton, NJ 08625.

The deadline for comments is Thursday.

Created: 12/1/2008 | Updated: 12/1/2008

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