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Company tries to calm residents' nerves about high voltage route through county
 
Photo by Anna Murphey/New Jersey Herald

A large group of people gather outside Freedon Civic Center preparing to go into the PSE&G information session on the power lines project that will run through Sussex County.
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By BRUCE A. SCRUTON

bscruton@njherald.com

FREDON -- Hundreds of people flowed through the Fredon Civic Center on Wednesday looking at displays and asking questions of experts on the proposal to run new high-voltage transmission lines across Sussex County.

At the invitation of Fredon officials, Public Service Electric & Gas and PJM Interconnection staffed several information stations, giving people a chance to ask questions in a one-on- one setting.

But, as the three-hour-long session drew to a close, a crowd was urged to gather around project manager John Ribardo for an impromptu group question-and-answer session.

Some in the crowd then complained they couldn't hear because there were no microphones, then took the companies to task for not being
prepared.

"If you can't even provide microphones, then how can you build a power line?" asked one man.

That incident came after a crowd swarmed into the civic center at 7 p.m., complete with school children carrying signs against the transmission lines.

The Fredon School is the only school along the 135-mile route of the proposed line, which runs from Pennsylvania to Roseland, where the power lines will cross school property.

The route follows an existing right-of-way owned by PSE&G, which has existed since 1929 and involves building a line of 155- to 195-foot tall single poles to carry the new 500-kilovolt lines, as well as the existing 230-kilovolt lines.

Parents and school officials have concerns about the electromagnetic fields created wherever electricity flows. There is debate in the scientific field as to the health effects from the electromagnetic fields.

Kyle King, a consulting engineer with PJM Interconnect, said how the wires are strung on the poles and the direction of current flowing through them will be controlled so that, in effect, the fields of the two transmission lines effectively negate each other.

But that explanation didn't quell the fears of Mike Georges, a Fredon resident who has the power lines in his back yard.

"Nobody can tell us exactly what will happen," he said. "We feel like a bunch of guinea pigs. The best case scenario, as I see it, is we will will be stuck with 190-foot eyesores in our back yard."

PJM Interconnect, which operates the power grid that includes New Jersey, oversees the project while PSE&G will own the lines on the New Jersey side of the project.

The power lines are a project to bring more electricity and more reliable service to the greater New York City area. In early June, PSE&G announced the project and said it had commissioned a study of three possible routes.

In August, it chose to follow existing power lines through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The path enters the county in Walpack, and then goes through Stillwater, Fredon, Newton, Andover, Byram and Sparta, and then into Jefferson in Morris County.

The company said the selection will minimize the impact to the environment and the need for clearing vegetation. The route also crosses the least amount of protected wetlands and forest areas, and will have the least impact on aesthetics, according to PSE&G.

Fredon Mayor Sandra Coltelli said, "I'm pleased to see this many people come out." She hopes to have another session where everyone could hear all the questions and all the answers, rather than moving to various displays.

Most towns will be holding hearings later this fall and early next year as part of the permit process. While the company owns the right-of-way, they still must apply to local planning officials because of the amount of construction needed.

Company officials said applications will be filed this fall.

A company timeline has construction beginning in the fall of 2009 with work completed in 2012. Cost of the project through New Jersey is pegged at about $650 million.

The company has established a Web site for the project at: www.pseg.com/companies/pseandg/powerline/overview.jsp.

Created: 9/17/2008 | Updated: 9/17/2008

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