October 16, 2013

Underwater cable project progresses


PLATTSBURGH — The Champlain Hudson Power Express continues to make progress toward final approval.

Transmission Developers Inc. began to seek the necessary approvals for the $2.2 billion project in 2008. 

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Plans call for a 333-mile-long, high-voltage, direct-current transmission line to be buried under water and along railroad and highway rights-of-way from the Canadian border to New York City. 

It would bring up to 1,000 megawatts of power from hydro- and wind-power sources in Canada to the greater New York City area.


Transmission Developers Senior Public Affairs Officer Rick Chase recently provided an update to the New York Citizens Advisory Committee of the Lake Champlain Basin Program at the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

“We intend to be in service by 2018,” Chase said.

The project received a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the New York State Public Service Commission in April.

That included a Joint Proposal of Settlement signed by Transmission Developers, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Public Service Commission, Department of State, Trout Unlimited, Scenic Hudson, the Adirondack Park Agency, Riverkeeper and New York City.

The project still needs a  pair of federal approvals: a Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy and a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We hope to get the federal permits early next year,” Chase said.


Chase said the Champlain Hudson Power Express is what is called a merchant facility. That means they must come up with private financing and find their own customers, so ratepayers don’t have to help pay for the transmission system, like they do for traditional networks.

Once all the permits are in place, Transmission Developers can finalize design details and start to make the cable.

Chase said construction could start in 2015 and continue through 2017.

And, he said, the project expects to create 300 construction jobs for 3.5 years, with a peak of 600 jobs. They intend to use local unionized employees, he said.

The developers still need to get an Environmental Management and Construction Plan approved by the Public Service Commission.

Ed Alkiewicz, a senior environmental scientist with consultant AECOM, said that includes a description of environmental protection and construction methods, including erosion control, cleanup and restoration.

“The PSC wants to see the (lake) bottom returned to its original condition,” he said.


Marine surveys were done in 2010 and 2012 to identify the profile of the lake and river bottoms. They also helped find where route adjustments may be required to avoid disturbance or damage to cultural resources.

Marine mattressing may be used in places where the cable can’t be buried due to the presence of ground anomalies or historic artifacts.

Mattressing involves installation of a cement pad to lay the cable on; it would then be covered with another pad to prevent the possibility of anything snagging the cable.

Hydro Quebec is responsible for construction of a transmission line from power sources in Quebec to the border. 

The line would end at a new converter station that would be built in Astoria in the borough of Queens.

Once operational, the project is expected to lower ratepayer costs by about $650 million a year, Chase said. He said it would also reduce emissions from older power generation plants.


Transmission Developers would make tax payments to host communities along the route. Executive Vice President William Helmer said New York state believes it is the host for those portions of the line that are buried under water and should get that tax money.

Transmission Developers has set up a $117 million environmental trust fund that is intended to protect, restore and improve the aquatic habitat and fisheries along the route of the system.

The Governance Committee for the fund includes the parties that signed the Joint Proposal of Settlement. The fund is to be administered by the Hudson River Foundation. 

Potential projects include surveys of fish populations, assessments of fish habitats, critical habitat restoration and invasive-species management.

Transmission Developers would provide $2.5 million of that at the financial closing, and the remainder would be paid over the subsequent 35 years.

The system is virtually maintenance free, officials said. It is designed to instantly shut off in the event of damage to the cable.

“We anticipate at least a 40-year life of the project,” Chase said.

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