‘Beeping and drilling and noise’: Alna, Clean Energy Connect reps talk roads, more

Mon, 03/04/2024 - 8:45am

    Plans call for New England Clean Energy Connect to get Alna officials a contract proposal soon, as the hydropower transmission line project nears town. Town officials, residents and project representatives talked in a specially called selectboard meeting Thursday night, Feb. 29.

    Road Commissioner Jeff Verney asked about repairs. If the NECEC project’s heavy equipment breaks up Rabbit Path Road and the damage is just patched over, “that’s not going to last,” he said.

    It will be fixed “to what it was before,” NECEC spokesman Troy Thibodeau said. 

    Adam Marquis, a unit manager on the project, elaborated. “While we’re doing construction, it’s probably going to be more of a bandaid-type fix (to) make it passable, safe for everybody to come in and out. When it comes time for the actual, long-term fix, I would envision a meeting with your town’s (road) commissioner and make sure that we’re all on the same page before we implement that fix ... The objective for us would be to make sure the town agrees with our approach on the fix and then we’ll do that fix.” The town can suggest a contractor to consider for the fix, he added. 

    First Selectman Ed Pentaleri said Rabbit Path Road is definitely not designed for the kinds of loads the project will put on it. “You could really easily imagine that (this) just really destroys the road to where it has to be (started) over. If it needs to be a start-over kind of situation because of the loads you’re putting on it, is that what you’re stepping up to, if that’s what’s needed?”

    “I would say if that’s what we can agree to, to make you guys happy ... yeah, I mean, we can do that,” Marquis said. 

    Fielding other questions, project representatives said crews should be working in Alna through summer and probably leaving town sometime next fall. Work is usually from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, will produce construction noise, will use flaggers as needed, and a trailer will carry portable toilets along the line.

    Third Selectman Coreysha Stone asked how much ground the project will cover in a day. “If you all are there six days a week, and there’s beeping and there’s drilling and there’s non-stop noise, everybody’s impacted,” she said.

    Thibodeau said the noise will not be constant, and what the drills run into when making the holes for the poles will dictate progress.  

    Pentaleri said he spoke with one member each of neighboring Whitefield’s selectboard and roads committee about that town’s experience with the project. He said they described to him “a very positive experience” so far, including with project representatives’ responsiveness; and, one week into project reps’ communications with him, those have also been positive, he said.

    Project reps told the meeting at the town office and over Zoom, the project will bring power from the Canadian border, through Maine and New Hampshire, to Massachusetts. Ironwood Heavy Highway will prep the access to the work sites for M.J. Electric, which will do the electrical construction, Marquis said. 

    NECEC’s template for local agreements states Central Maine Power (CMP) “agrees to provide the labor and materials required to repair posted roads for damages sustained directly due to construction activity associated with New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) system upgrades work performed by its contractors or subcontractors utilizing the specified town roads during the posted road season. Repairs, other than superficial repairs, shall be approved by the ­­­­... Road Commissioner and will adhere to the standards/specifications provided by the Commissioner,” it reads.

    According to that template, which Pentaleri provided on request, the project would be accessed via Route 218 and Rabbit Path and Lothrop roads. “In general, the project will need to transport heavy construction equipment (over 23,000 pounds) including but not limited to ... excavators, concrete trucks, IMT 180 or IMT 220 drill rig that will come on a 3-4 axle 55-ton lowboy – truck and lowboy is roughly 85 feet long and with drill rig weighs approximately  90 tons; temporary casings and rebar cages up to (about 30 feet) in length that will come on a flatbed truck/trailer; cranes; and reel, pole and equipment trailers,” it continues.

    “Damage is considered any change in the road as the result of the use of this equipment including ruts, cracks, erosion, potholes, or other equipment-associated damage ... Roads will be repaired to their status recorded (before) construction and in coordination with the ­­­­Town and the Road Commissioner with a warranty of one year after construction is completed in the area. During the timeframe of active use, CMP and its contractors or subcontractors will always keep roads safe and passable for the public and emergency vehicles.”

    On a question from the audience about the upcoming contract offer, Thibodeau said if the town proposes edits, those may or may not be agreed to. “It’s like any sort of negotiation that way.”