- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A proposal to move Canadian electricity to southern New England via two parallel power lines buried beneath Lake Champlain and then across much of Vermont would have little impact on the lake or surrounding areas, an environmental report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy says.

The draft environmental impact statement, dated in May and released this week, says that the process of burying the lines in trenches beneath the lake could stir up sediment and that construction could cause minor, short-term disruptions of commercial and recreational vessels on the lake.

TDI-New England CEO Donald Jessome said the project was designed to minimize environmental impact during construction while, when completed, providing southern New England with up to 1,000 megawatts of clean Canadian hydro-electricity.

“We’re extremely pleased,” Jessome said Thursday of the draft.

The study is part of TDI-New England’s efforts to win the federal approval it needs for the project. Before finalizing the report, the Department of Energy plans to hold hearings in July in South Burlington and Rutland.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Vermont also must approve the project.

“We are pushing very hard to get all three of those permits in place before the end of this year,” Jessome said. “It’s not a slam dunk that that will occur. We are absolutely pushing as hard as we can to achieve that goal.”

The company hopes to have the Vermont project carrying electricity by 2019. The Vermont phase is part of a broader effort to get Canadian hydroelectricity to southern New England.

Meanwhile, Jessome said a similar project proposed for the New York side of Lake Champlain that would carry power to New York City is expected to begin construction next year.

Sandra Levine of the Vermont office of the Conservation Law Foundation said her organization has had concerns about the sediment the project could stir up during construction and the heat the cables could generate.

“They provided some analysis of the impacts that CLF and others were concerned about,” Levine said Thursday, although she said she had not yet read the draft report. “TDI and the Department of Energy were helpful in making sure there is a good evaluation of the environmental impacts of the project.”

The Vermont plans call for TDI-New England to bury two, 6-inch cables beneath Lake Champlain from the Canadian border south to the town of Benson, near the southern end of the lake. The cables would then be buried in existing rights of way across Vermont to Ludlow, where it would hook into the regional electric grid.

While other large scale energy infrastructure projects in New England have generated significant opposition from environmentalists and nearby landowners and neighbors, the TDI proposal has not.

The report says that in Lake Champlain the cable would be buried 3 to 4 feet beneath the lake bed, except at depths greater than 150 feet where the cables would be placed on the bottom. In areas where the cables couldn’t be buried, they would be covered with concrete mats.

On land, the cables would be buried in existing road and some railroad rights of way.

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