PORTLAND, Maine — Earlier this week, photos alleging the controversial CMP transmission line project was already in motion surfaced on social media -- but members of Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and emails between CMP's parent-company and local officials say otherwise.
The pictures were shared to the 'Say NO to NECEC' (which stands for New England Clean Energy Connect) Facebook page Monday morning by the opposing group's director, Sandra Howard. They show what appears to be a cleared path through a stretch of woods along the Moxie Stream.
According to Howard, she received the photos from another member of the group earlier this week after they went for a hike through the area.
In the post she writes: "The proposed corridor route on the upstream side of Moxie Stream toward where the power line would cross the Kennebec is now actively being cleared. We are in touch with our legal team about this."
But do they really show that?
According to Maine's Department of Environmental Protection, Central Maine Power, and emails obtained by NEWS CENTER Maine, the answer is no. Instead, they say the path shown was created last fall for survey purposes, and the area shown isn't part of the transmission line project proposal.
The group behind the NECEC shared this post to their Facebook page Tuesday night in response to the photos:
"It has come to our attention that photographs of Lost Camp Rd. on the West side of Moxie Stream described as “the proposed corridor route” are being circulated. This is NOT the location of the proposed NECEC project. Last fall, in consultation with the DEP, Central Maine Power cut a trail on the existing access road in order to move a boring machine down to the Kennebec River where we could gather information needed for the proposed design of the under-river section of the NECEC".
NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with Jim Beyer Wednesday afternoon by phone. Beyer is not only the Regional Licensing and Compliance Manager for Maine's DEP, but also the man who gave this specific clearing project the green light.
He explained CMP's original proposal, which had the transmission line cross over the Kennebec River, caused serious scenic viewing concerns. Instead, it was suggested the utility company look into the impacts of having the line go under the river.
"The alternative with the least amount of impact was to put a temporary crossing across Moxie Stream and then take that piece of equipment up what's called the Lost Camp Road, which is an old road that kind of parallels the river that has not been heavily used in a very long time," Beyer said. "So they had to do a little bit of clearing in order to get that piece of equipment in there, and they did that last November or December."
Emails obtained by NEWS CENTER Maine between CMP's parent company, Avangrid, and an administrative secretary in the town of Jackman echo Beyer's statement.
The emails are dated September 24, 2018. In them, John Carroll, the company's Corporate Communications Director, explains to Heidi Dionne what crews from S.W. Cole Engineering would be doing:
"As we discussed, CMP expects to have crews from S.W. Cole Engineering working in our corridor through northern Franklin and Somerset counties starting the week of October 1st. They will be conducting test borings to assess soil characteristics along the route as part of the design process for the power line structures. The crews will take a series of borings starting near the Canadian border and work generally east. The work at each test site should take no more than one day, and it should have little to no impact on local logging operations or recreational activities".
Going back to Howard's original post -- when asked via email if the photos had been verified before being shared, she followed up by saying her legal team was still looking into it, and she would circle back when she had more answers.
Beyer says he will actually be going to Moxie Stream Friday morning to evaluate what has come from the survey that began last fall.