Central Maine Power officials will be at the Woolwich municipal building at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29 to discuss aircraft warning lights on CMP’s Chops Point transmission towers.
“This is a good meeting to be having at this moment,” Selectman Allison Hepler told Wiscasset Newspaper. “Everyone can hear the reasons behind the decision to install the lights, as well as the options for moving forward.”
Hepler, who is also the House District 53 representative, was among five state representatives signing off on a letter to CMP in an effort to resolve complaints over strobe lighting placed on the new towers. The flashing lighting is used to warn aircraft. “I’ve seen these lights. They’re a huge change for the homeowners and also for the traditional views of Merrymeeting Bay,” Hepler added.
Sen. Eloise Vitelli, Rep. Denise Tepler of Topsham, Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham and Rep. Sean Paulhus of Bath also signed the letter dated Dec. 16. It states it was written on behalf of West Chops Point residents and surrounding Merrymeeting Bay towns of Bath, Bowdoinham, Topsham and Woolwich. The towers replace older ones and carry electrical transmission lines across the Kennebec River at the lower part of Merrymeeting Bay linking Woolwich to Chop Point, Bath.
“We now understand that the increase in the height of the new towers over the old was the reason lights were needed, and had new towers been slightly shorter no measures would have been required to mitigate aviation hazards,” the letter states. The legislators ask CMP and its parent company Avangrid to address the lighting’s impact. They received a written response from CMP president and CEO Doug Herling.
“As you requested, I’ve asked our project engineer to provide more details about what the National Electric Safety Code and the Army Corps of Engineers codes required for tower heights on this project and have attached their summary to this letter,” Herling writes. “Recognizing the impact the new lights have had since they were installed, we made the decision to purchase a state-of-the-art radar system that will detect when an aircraft is in the area and once detected, automatically turn the hazard lighting on and then off once the aircraft has safely passed,” he continues.
Herling notes to his knowledge CMP is the first public utility to employ this new technology. He adds, the permitting process for the installation of the new radar system is underway.
“(W)e hope to receive approvals to move forward in less than six months,” writes Herling. He asks legislators to encourage the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communication Commission to grant CMP approval of the radar-activated tower lighting.