LEWISTON — A multimillion-dollar project that would bring hydroelectric power from Quebec to Massachusetts through Maine received an official nod of support from the City Council last week, as Lewiston is set to become a centerpiece of the proposal.
The Central Maine Power Co. project, known as New England Clean Energy Connect, or NECEC, received unanimous support from the council because of its potential tax impact for Lewiston.
The project would channel 1,200 megawatts of energy from Hydro-Quebec along a new 145-mile transmission line from the Canadian border to a new AC/DC converter station in Lewiston.
Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett estimates that the $250 million investment in Lewiston will result in between $5 million and $7 million annually in property taxes.
If approved, the converter station would be located in the Merrill Road area, and construction would take place between mid-2019 and mid-2022.
However, the project is still awaiting permits and approvals from a number of federal agencies, and has seen pushback from some Maine communities with environmental concerns.
Those include towns surrounding the Kennebec Gorge, where CMP would build power lines over the Kennebec River, and a proposed Appalachian Trail crossing.
The CMP project has had a complicated path, but has been ushered in by a 2016 law in Massachusetts that seeks long-term contracts for renewable energy sources, including hydroelectricity from Canada. CMP was awarded the bid on the project from Massachusetts earlier this year.
The new transmission line in Maine would be built on land already owned by CMP. In June, in response to some of the environmental concerns, CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, said it would invest $22 million to support conservation and new trails in the area.
Following the council’s vote to support the project last week, a statement from the city of Lewiston said the project “will substantially expand the city’s tax base and assist in mitigating the city’s property tax rate.”
Mayor Shane Bouchard said Lewiston is “pleased to unanimously reaffirm our support for this clean renewable power project. While all utility projects have impacts, this one has major positives for Lewiston, Maine, and the region, with few negatives. It will generate jobs, lower energy costs, and expand the tax base. The city has a long and positive working relationship with CMP, and we know they deliver on their promises.”
Avangrid-CMP has said the project construction will support an average of 1,700 jobs annually in Lewiston and Maine.
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