On Tuesday, voters will be asked to approve the construction of a power line that’s already been built—through the forever-wild Forest Preserve in the northwestern Adirondacks.
If Ballot Proposal One is approved, the state will cede to National Grid a two-mile strip, totaling six acres, along Route 56 where the line was built last year. In exchange, National Grid will give the state a forty-three-acre parcel along the South Branch of the Grass River.
John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council says it’s a good deal for the state.
If the line were not built along the road, Sheehan said, National Grid would have had to avoid the Forest Preserve parcel by constructing the line through an ancient boreal forest and Seveys Bog, a home of the endangered spruce grouse. The line would have crossed ninety-five streams and wetlands, according to the council.
“That forest has not been disturbed, as far we can tell, since the last ice age,” Sheehan said.
The line is needed to provide a backup source of power to Tupper Lake.
“In a couple of cases they’ve had outages in the winter that lasted more than a day,” Sheehan said. “They’ve had to put people in public shelters to keep them from freezing to death.”
He concedes that building the power line in the Preserve was illegal, but for the sake of the greater good, the council and other environmental groups chose not to sue.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation also agreed not to sue if National Grid pursued the constitutional amendment allowing the land swap. The amendment, now known as Ballot Proposal One, has already been approved by two successive state legislatures—a prerequisite to getting it on the ballot.
DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren said National Grid was under federal orders to build the line by the end of last year, so work could not be delayed under after next week’s referendum.
Sheehan has been talking up the amendment around the state and has encountered virtually no opposition. He is confident it will pass. If for some reason it doesn’t, he added, National Grid will push for another vote in 2011.
The council’s website contains an explanation of the proposal as well as its exact wording. You’ll also find links to numerous editorials in favor of the land swap.
Click the link below to read National Grid’s fact sheet on the project.