Big power line project draws fire from northern Harford residents
Residents living around the small northwestern Harford County community of Norrisville are mobilizing for a fight against a major regional power distribution project that is expected to string more high voltage overhead lines across their farms and neighborhoods.
More than 90 residents packed into a sweltering meeting room at the Jarrettsville Library Wednesday night to discuss potential impacts from the Independence Energy Connection project and how they can minimize them in Harford County.
“The project will benefit the public at large but will have an impact on Norrisville,” Patricia Hankins, a Whiteford area resident who has been monitoring the project, said.
The $320 million project was announced June 1 by Transource Energy of Columbus, Ohio, which is working under the auspices of PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest regional power grid that manages electricity distribution across 13 states, including Maryland and Pennsylvania, where the Independence Energy Connection project is centered.
The project is needed, Transource Energy said, to improve reliability after the grid operator “identified concerns with the delivery of electricity into the region.”
When completed, Transource said, the project will provide “two new pathways to alleviate electric gridlock,” noting that PJM estimates the project also “will save the region’s electric customers approximately $600 million over the next 15 years.”
The project consists of building two new substations, one in York County, Pa., north of the Norman Wood Bridge, and the other in Franklin County, Pa., near Chambersburg that will in turn be connected to the existing power grid by new high voltage transmission lines between the new substations and existing stations in Harford and Washington counties.
The proposed York County substation will be connected to the existing Conastone Substation owned by Exelon subsidiary Baltimore Gas & Electric, which is off Jolly Acres Road just east of Route 23 and Norrisville.
The estimated distance of the connection is 15 miles, according to Transource’s news release on the project. Two locations are under consideration for the new substation, both along Pennsylvania Route 74, and dozens of potential routes for the connecting lines into Maryland are being studied. Most of the new line will be in York County, but the final 5 to 6 miles will be in Harford, depending on the final route taken, according to maps the company has released.
Right now, the proposed routes “look like somebody picked up a bowl of spaghetti and then dropped it in Norrisville [to] see where it lands,” said Aimee O’Neill, who complained the company hasn’t been forthcoming with information.
“We need to steer this away from the routes that will be most disadvantageous to the Norrisville area,” she said.
One of the least-developed areas of Harford County, Norrisville has a high percentage of preserved farms and woodlands, and is crisscrossed by Deer Creek and its tributaries. In recent years, it has seen the emergence of eco-tourism businesses such as Fish-in Barrel, a fee pond fishing site, and Mason-Dixon Outfitters, a fee hunting site.
Both businesses would be impacted by some of the proposed power line routes, Hankins said, as would at least one tree farm. One proposed route for the line would parallel Route 136, one of the state’s 18 designated Scenic Byways.
The area also already is crisscrossed by a number of overhead power lines connecting Conastone to the grid and with a sister substation a few miles east in Graceton.
Hankins and O’Neill said Transource should be lobbied to choose “other options” — routes farther west along the border with Baltimore County.
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