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June 7, 2018

CMP to invest $22M in western Maine conservation, tourism projects

About WM&RC

Western Mountains and Rivers Corp. is a Maine nonprofit public benefit corporation formed for the purpose of expanding conservation of the Kennebec, Dead, Sandy, Moose, Sebasticook and Carrabassett rivers. It develops recreation projects and education programs about the history, ecology and uses of Maine's lands and rivers and expands economic development opportunities along the rivers of western Maine.

About CMP

Central Maine Power Co., a subsidiary of AVANGRID Inc., is Maine's largest electricity transmission and distribution utility. Established in 1899, it operates approximately 23,500 miles of distribution lines and 2,900 miles of transmission lines. It serves approximately 624,000 customers across 346 communities in central and southern Maine.

The Somerset County-based nonprofit Western Mountains and Rivers Corp. and Central Maine Power Co. announced Wednesday an agreement in which the utility company will invest in conservation and nature-based tourism projects in western Maine as part of its proposed New England Clean Energy Connect 145-mile transmission project.

The Portland Press Herald reported that the agreement calls for CMP to invest $22 million as mitigation for negative impacts of the proposed transmission line's crossing at the Kennebec River Gorge.

The memorandum of understanding was proposed by conservation, recreation and economic development interests in response to CMP's request for input on its plans for a portion of the transmission line to cross the Kennebec River at that location, according to a news release issued on Wednesday.

"CMP proactively sought mitigation ideas that would help western Maine achieve its potential as a hub for outdoor recreation," said Larry Warren, one of WM&RC directors. "Early in the discussions, both WM&RC and CMP realized that an agreement would bring benefits to the region."

Following months of talks, the parties identified a suitable design for the line to cross the river with limited scenic impacts, according to the news release.

"While the specifics of the agreement have not yet been made public, CMP would underwrite a substantial local fund administered by WM&RC to enhance conservation, outdoor recreation and economic development," the release stated.

The Press Herald reported that at least two major conservation groups, The Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Appalachian Mountain Club object to the transmission line because of its scenic impact on the Kennebec River Gorge and the Appalachian Trail, which the line would cross several times in less than a mile.

What CMP's promises

Among the measures included in the memorandum of understanding, CMP would transfer certain scenic lands along the Dead River to WM&RC, would assist in the potential development of a visitor center and would fund education programs and trail development and maintenance.

CMP also agreed to install fiber optic cable that will enhance broadband and Wi-Fi access for residents and businesses of Somerset and Franklin counties along Route 201 and Route 27.

"WM&RC took a hard look at all the options for having the transmission line cross the Kennebec," said Joe Christopher, Three Rivers Whitewater owner and WM&RC director. "We are working with local stakeholders to determine the best possible way to cross the Kennebec River in a way that provides the most positive outcome possible. We have worked hard to develop a meaningful mitigation package that will have substantial and long lasting positive impacts on the Northwestern part of Maine including retention and creation of jobs, preservation of lands for conservation and recreation, creation and expansion of vital regional trail networks and other mitigation actions to fairly balance the impacts of this project."

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Land Use Planning Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies will be the ultimate decision-makers on whether the project is permitted and how it crosses the Kennebec River.

CMP filed its application for state permits in September 2017. Public hearings for those permits are expected this fall.

Read more

Opponents and advocates make their final arguments on CMP's New England Clean Energy Connect

CMP, Hydro Quebec sign 20-year power contract with Massachusetts utilities

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