VELCO line faces opposition from Stowe residents

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(Host) Electricity customers in northern Vermont were told this week that the cost of a new power line to serve the Stowe area has jumped by about 50 percent. The Vermont Electric Power Company says the cost increase is due to design changes and the company’s plan to use outside contractors. The power line also faces opposition from Stowe residents who are concerned about its impact on aesthetics and property values.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Growth and development in the Stowe area has led to a spike in electric demand in the resort community. So VELCO, the company that operates the state’s transmission grid, wants to build a 10-mile line from Duxbury to Stowe to bring in more electricity.

But the cost has ballooned since last spring, when the project was first unveiled. VELCO spokesman David Mace says the line is now projected to cost $20.3 million, an increase of about $7 million.

(Mace) “First, we significantly redesigned the project.”

(Dillon) The new design calls for the new 115-kilovolt line to be built inside the 100-foot right of way of an existing power line. That boosted the cost because the line that’s there now has to be moved slightly to the side.

The company’s plan to use outside contractors has also inflated the cost. VELCO says its employees are tied up with other projects, including a major power line planned from West Rutland to South Burlington.

That proposal has drawn opposition from a number of towns in western Vermont. Opponents have challenged the need for the project, and have asked regulators to order VELCO to bury the line in some areas.

Some Stowe residents want the new power line buried as well. Rick Oden lives near the new power line route. He says the power lines will hurt the views and lower property values in the area.

(Oden) “It’s just not the clean way to go any more. It’s the old fashioned way of tearing up, desecrating if you will, a fine beautiful area like we have up there. And there’s really no need for it when we have some viable alternatives.”

(Dillon) Oden says there’s already several homes for sale in his development. He’d like to see VELCO bury the line at least near his neighborhood.

Mace says it costs about eight times more to bury the lines. He doesn’t think the project will harm property values or scenic views in the area.

(Mace) “There is an existing power line currently in this corridor, and our proposal is to stay within the existing 100 foot right of way corridor. So we’re simply going to be adding another to the one that’s already there and was there at the time this development was built.”

(Dillon) The line as planned would parallel Route 100. Some officials in Stowe want the line to run instead through a nearby state forest. The state Agency of Natural Resources has so far denied that request.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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