op-ed Toby Martin
The people of Maine will be voting on an extremely important referendum November 2: whether or not to go ahead with a power corridor that has sharply divided Maine’s voters. In the meantime, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Council of Maine have joined forces to take legal action opposing the Army Corps of Engineers, Hydro Quebec and Central Maine Power. Millions of dollars have been spent by parties pro and con in what appears to be regional but is actually international in scope with investment from North America to Europe. The stakes are high for everyone involved.
Is there a better way to resolve the continuing conflict, opposition, debate and controversy that swirl around the international, interstate power corridor being planned to carry electricity from Canada to Massachusetts through the wilds of Maine?
Wallace (Wally) Sinclair, the salt-of-the-earth editor and publisher of ”Mainely Agriculture,” who knows Downeast territory and politics well, thinks there is. He published an intriguing and practical answer, one that would avoid clearcutting and destruction of wildernesss habitats, one that would ensure continuation of unique, indigenous animal and plant species native to Maine, and one that would maintain, foster and protect Maine’s traditional backcountry outdoor economic resources: fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping. Sinclair argues that the answer has always been there. People just didn’t see it. Here is his latest insight.
Old Canada Roadways: Renew, Reuse, Recycle
by Wallace Sinclair
Come November voters will be asked to disallow cutting a new swath of ground from near Lac-Mégantic, Quebec across 54 remaining miles of pristine Maine territory and 67 new Canadian miles for the purpose of connecting hydro generated power lines to existing power lines above Bingham to feed into Lewiston for the proposed New England Power Connect needs of Massachusetts.
What has been overlooked, however, is the existing 100+ years of railroad line from Lac-Mégantic into Jackman, some five Maine townships versus nine new townships and not over otherwise protected conservation areas now slated for clearcutting. This ever so simple border crossing of existing Canadian Pacific railway into Jackman has not been considered for expansion as a conduit to locate such power lines at any time in the protracted public argument by the owners of Hydro Quebec – the power source – and CMP, owned by Iberadola and its principal largest shareholder, the nation of Qatar. If the debate for and against had only considered a new power line location along the rail line and thence southward near and above Route 201 into Bingham. there might have been less animosity among stakeholders and many towns for the past three years. None can refute the beauty of the this territory when parked at a rest area at the crest of high ground just south of Jackman when looking at the Canadian boundary mountains and foreground of the Attean Lakes. It is a signature of a frontier of cooperation between nations that suffers a present rift. If only a better study of the geography had included following the rail line and Route 201 south, this project might not have been cause for so much expense and the legal wrangling it has seen.
It would be a shame to let such a power source not find a way into southern New England quite possibly an approach less objectionable as a Maine argument; for not much more money; and additionally would bolster a Jackman based economic arm twist for an otherwise depressed
local economy. What might have been is likewise food for thought for changing horses in mid-stream at this point if only the power of the press would pick up this thread to negotiate a more acceptable debate satisfying all parties for and against.
This is to say, it is a shame to let such a power source not find solution into southern New England at the most acceptable parameter available to it, along the existing railroad and highway south, swaths standing alone without power lines and thereby more easily served the entire year round. An existing railroad pathway which is much more available to Hydro Quebec nearby into Jackman and Jackman south to meet CMP’s upgraded infrastructure at West Forks by staying parallel to Route 201, the more responsible, logical and efficient pathway to plug in new power transmission infrastructures.