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Company details underwater power line plans

Plattsburgh, New York - April 13, 2010

The company proposing to lay a high-voltage transmission line under the length of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River offered a better look at its plan at a meeting in Plattsburgh, Tuesday night.

Transmission Developers Incorporated, or TDI, is a 2-year-old Canadian company working on its first-ever project. The Champlain Hudson Power Express would connect power generation sources in Northern New York and Canada to New York City and the surrounding area.

"There is the need to bring transmission capacity to interconnect the renewables to this marketplace," said Don Jessome, the CEO of TDI.

TDI says four transmission cables will be buried under the waterways. They will be spooled out from ships or barges and a remote-controlled rover will guide the cables around obstacles. Once the cables are laid on the ground another rover will run over them and bury them in a trench using a water-jet system. TDI says burying the lines is more environmentally friendly than putting them up on towers.

While federal law requires the transmission line be open to all kinds of power TDI says it is primarily in negotiation with renewable sources like wind and hydro. It is working with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to stay clear of shipwrecks, and plans to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and areas with known pollutants, like Cumberland Bay, which was dredged for PCBs several years ago.

Environmental watch groups say it is too early to know if the project is good or bad.

"We'll certainly be looking at the more detailed information that's filed federally and with New York State and just looking and trying to asses environmental impacts," said Lori Fisher, the executive director of the Lake Champlain Committee.

Safety is also a big concern. TDI says the Champlain Hudson Power Express will be buried at least 3 feet below ground. The biggest threat to the cables will be anchors from ships. Jessome says there are safeguards in place to make sure the entire lake does not become electrified.

"From a safety perspective, extremely safe and this is very proven technology," Jessome says.

Before the company gets the go ahead from regulators and a thumbs up from environmental groups it will have to prove this project will bring big benefits without doing harm.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News

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