WEST FORKS, Maine — The controversial CMP transmission line project will enter a new stage next week when environmental hearings begin. The Department of Environmental Protection will hold a full five days of public hearings in Farmington.
To get a better idea of where the new, 54-mile power line corridor would be built, NEWS CENTER Maine traveled by snowmobile with opponent Peter Dostie up Coburn Mountain in northern Somerset County. It's become a highly popular trail and attraction for snowmobilers from many places.
Dostie, who owns the Hawk’s Nest Lodge in West Forks, says he expects as many as ten-thousand snowmobilers to visit the mountain this season.
From the top of the 3,700 foot mountain, the view stretches more than fifty miles on a clear day, with Moosehead Lake and Katahdin in one direction, Sugarloaf and Mount Washington in another, and Maine’s Boundary Mountains and Quebec to the northwest. Dostie says the power line would interrupt that view from several sides of Coburn Mountain and hurt snowmobile tourism.
"These trails are special. They’re wide and unbroken and looking at what’s left of this kind of wilderness on the east coast," said Dostie. "This is it -- the doorstep to the North Maine woods, and nothing else out there. This is it."
At the same time, Suzie Hockmeyer of Northern Outdoors in The Forks is supporting the project, saying it would not harm tourism in the area.
Hockmeyer says she had concerns at one point about the power line crossing the Kennebec River Gorge, one of the two locations for her whitewater rafting business. But last year, CMP agreed to run the line under the Gorge instead, and Hockmeyer is now supporting it. She says it would be less damaging than other big energy developments, which she expects will come if the line from Hydro Quebec does not.
"I don’t want it coming through here, but it’s a transmission line. They aren’t putting up wind towers, not putting up fields and fields of solar panels," she said.
Hockmeyer also showed computer-generated images from CMP, which depict how the 150-foot wide corridor would look from the mountaintop. They include what's called a "tapered cut," proposed by the company, which would leave shorter trees much closer to the towers, making the corridor appear much narrower.
All of these arguments and many others will be heard next week during the DEP hearings on the project. Most of the time will be reserved for questions and answers from intervening groups and CMP. Tuesday and Thursday nights will be for public comments.