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PSE&G maps out new power route
 

By SETH AUGENSTEIN

saugenstein@njherald.com

Six months after the Highlands Council said PSE&G's Susquehanna-Roseland power line plans are inconsistent with the Highlands master plan, the power company has submitted more eco-friendly plans for the 45-mile route running through northwestern New Jersey into Pennsylvania.

The new proposal includes moving the proposed switching station from an environmentally sensitive tract in Jefferson to a smaller site west of the Weldon Quarry in Hopatcong.

A compensation fund of $18.6 million also will be put aside to account for unavoidable environmental impacts, according to the new plan. The extra costs include new management plans, restoration plans for streams and rivers, and another plan for historic and archaeological preservation. There also will be 11 less towers along the new proposed power line route, according to PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson.

"This comprehensive plan will minimize the impacts of our project on the environment while enabling us to ensure safe, reliable electric service for years to come," said Don McCloskey, PSE&G's director of environmental strategy and policy.

The proposed power line, which would stretch from Susquehanna, Pa., to Roseland in Essex County, is part of an upgrade needed to ensure reliable service, as well as meet future demands, said PJM Interconnection, the regional organization that oversees electric power production and transmission for 13 Northeastern and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia.

PSE&G is responsible for building the section between Roseland and the Delaware River while PPL is responsible for the Pennsylvania portion. The project was made public last June and the chosen corridor was unveiled a month later. The New Jersey stretch passes through from Essex to Morris counties, and through the Sussex County towns of Sparta, Hopatcong, Byram, Andover, Newton, Fredon and Stillwater, before moving into Hardwick in Warren County, and on to Pennsylvania.

The new plan still will cost PSE&G an estimated $750 million. The original scope was deemed inconsistent in December with the Highlands master plan, a regional strategy to limit development and protect the largest source of the state's drinking water.

Environmental groups, including the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, and the state's Sierra Club, are dismissive of the new plan.

"You can't mitigate a bullet wound with a Band-Aid," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

Grass-roots organizations, such as Fredon-based Stop the Lines, have raised safety and quality of life concerns about the project, as well as questioning the need of the new, and significantly taller, lines. David Slaperud, a trustee of Stop the Lines, said the group was baffled that money was a factor in the environmental concerns surrounding the project.

"I'm just amazed that money can somehow allow this to go through the Highlands," Slaperud said. "We had no idea that negotiations were going on behind the scenes."

The existing latticework towers along the right-of-way were built in 1929 and are about 90 feet tall. The new towers, a combination of monopole and latticework, will be twice that height. PSE&G's proposal to add 500-kilovolt service to the existing 230-kilovolt lines still is before the state Board of Public Utilities. It also must be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection since the route travels through the Highlands, a multi-municipal region.

"They (BPU) alone will determine the need," said Eileen Swan, the executive director of the Highlands Council. "This plan is conditioned upon BPU's approval. Our job is to say, if this project is to occur, how can we best protect the region."

Still, Swan said PSE&G worked with the council's previous draft findings for the more environmentally-friendly plan, but the new proposal still must pass a council vote.

"Council staff did work on it with PSE&G, but it has not received council approval," Swan said.

Created: 5/21/2009 | Updated: 5/20/2009

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