Saratoga County trail advocates push for trails along power lines right-of-ways

The Post-Star | Posted: Friday, November 26, 2010 10:06 am |

Officials with Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature, also known as Saratoga PLAN, say transmission lines that could be built along the Champlain Canal and through Saratoga County may provide the means to forge new trails. The Saratoga Springs-based land trust has asked state regulators and the companies behind the proposals to consider whether new recreation opportunities could be pursued along the power line routes, and if so, to what extent. Proponents acknowledge there are safety and right of way issues that would have to be addressed, but they say there is precedent for using transmission routes as recreation corridors. Trail groups in Long Island, for example, have long coupled power lines and trails. Trail backers also say they have to at least ask, or they risk missing an opportunity to expand the region’s trail system, which would benefit residents and visitors alike.

Transmission Developers Inc.  is hoping to build a power line from Canada to New York City, and National Grid’s proposal to add a redundant power line from Moreau to Rotterdam. The Canadian project, known as the Champlain Hudson Power Express, aims to run a 1,000-megawatt power line beneath Lake Champlain to Whitehall, continuing along a railway corridor before moving southwest through Saratoga County. A section of the proposed route between Whitehall and Fort Ann is being eyed by the trails group as a way to help finish a 58-mile link between Whitehall and Waterford, known as the Champlain Canalway trail. Sections of the power line route in Saratoga County could also be used to extend the county’s Zim Smith trail, which was recently lengthened to 9.5 miles. Officials want to extend the trail north toward Moreau Lake State Park and south toward Mechanicville. Meanwhile, National Grid’s proposed power line route could foster five new trail segments in Greenfield, Charlton, Ballston and Clifton Park, according to documents Saratoga PLAN submitted to the Public Service Commission, which is reviewing the proposals.

National Grid officials recently met with Saratoga PLAN to discuss the ideas, but they said a municipal sponsor willing to maintain the trail will be needed if they are to allow trail construction along the route.

“It’s not something we’re opposed to; it’s just something that we have to look at very closely to make sure we don’t compromise safety or reliability,” said Patrick Stella, a National Grid spokesman.

Don Jessome, president and CEO of Transmission Developers, Inc., the company behind the Champlain Hudson Power Express, also said he is receptive to the idea of having a trail run along his firm’s proposed power line route. The cables would be buried three feet down, so there should be few safety concerns, he said.

“We can easily co-exist with a trail,” Jessome said. “It’s no problem at all.”

Read more in the Post Star.

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