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Monday, October 27, 2003

Getting More Power to the People Draws Westporters Interest and Concern

Getting more power to the people of energy-hungry southwestern Connecticut drew Westporters interest and concern today. The occasion was a sparsely attended Planning and Zoning Commission hearing at Town Hall. Up for discussion was a $604 million plan by Connecticut Light & Power Co. (CL&P) and The United Illuminating Company (UI) to extend the stateҒs existing 345-kV transmission system from Middletown to Norwalk. Part of the planned 69-mile route runs through Westport, mostly along the Post Road, and all of its Westport portion underground.  But still undecided and controversial—is exactly where it should cross the Saugatuck River and how it will connect back to the Post Road. Anne Bartosewicz, project director, told the hearing that the cheapest option for the power company was to have the line follow exactly along the Post Road. But anticipating concerns about disruption of the heavily trafficked downtown area, initially CL&P proposed the line instead divert north up Myrtle Avenue, cross the river on Canal Street, and then follow Kings Highway North back to the Post Road.
Anne Bartosewicz, project director of a planned new power line through Westport, answers questions today from members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. WestportNow.com photo
That drew protests from residents of the Kings Highway historic district area.  So CL&P adopted an alternate plan suggested last June by Barlow Cutler-Wotton, a member of the Historic District Commission. (See WestportNow Sept. 3, 2003) That plan ֖ which has now been submitted to state regulators takes the line south on Imperial Avenue and crosses the river using town-owned land adjacent to the Imperial parking lot. It would then go up Lincoln Street back to the Post Road. Deborah Yasinsky, a resident of Lincoln Street, told the hearing she was concerned about possible health hazards from the lines buried under her street and asked whether the town had investigated that. First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell said the town had not looked into the issue.  Bartosewicz said there have been many scientific reports and that the health community has not made a definitive link between health problems and transmission lines. David Yasinsky did not address the hearing but told WestportNow he thought Lincoln Street had been unfairly singled out for the line because it was a ֓less affluent area of Westport with many residents who were renters, as he and his wife are. ԓIt seems awfully peculiar that the best route just happens to be up our street, he said. Several questioners asked about the line crossing the river at alternate places above or below the Post Road and then snaking along Wilton Road or Riverside Avenue back to the Route 33 intersection and then going south on the Post Road. Deputy Police Chief Al Fiore quickly said such a scenario would be a traffic and parking nightmare. ԓThats the busiest intersection in town and one of the busiest in Fairfield County,Ҕ he said. Steve Edwards, Public Works director, cautioned that any refuse disturbed by a tunneling operation through the Imperial lot, a former landfill, would have to be properly taken care of. Anything that comes out canӒt go back in, he said. Bartosewicz told the hearing the power company could continue to look a better alternatives for Westport as the plan is considered by the Connecticut Siting Council over the next six to nine months. Construction will begin in 2005 with completion scheduled before the end of 2007, she said.

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Posted 10/27/03 at 06:57 PM  Permalink



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