Source: Excerpted from the Asbury Park Press -
Jersey Central Power & Light wants to build a 10-mile high-voltage electric transmission line from Red Bank to Aberdeen, a new attempt at a controversial project that neighborhoods along the route have fought and defeated in the past.
The utility said the 230,000-volt transmission line, called the Monmouth County Reliability Project, would run along the New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line railroad tracks and right of way, connecting a substation in Aberdeen with one in Red Bank and going through Hazlet, Holmdel and Middletown. The line, and substation improvements along the route, will benefit nearly 214,000 customers, the company said.
The $75 million project will help JCP&L’s system handle the growth — both in the number of customers and the amount of electricity they use — that it has experienced in the past “many, many years,” JCP&L President James V. Fakult said.
The project will have to approved by the state Board of Public Utilities and the state Department of Environmental Protection will have to grant permits.
The company has proposed a project before. Nearly 16 years ago, the utility scrapped plans for a 6.5-mile transmission line, to be run on 60-foot high steel poles, along the railroad tracks from Matawan to Middletown, after intense community opposition. Residents and some town officials, fearing a reduction in property values and worried about health risks, fought the project for a decade.
“To me, it is nothing but a resurrection of precisely the same plan that we fought and stopped,” said state Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, a vocal opponent years ago. “It’s the phoenix rising from the ashes, it’s the ghost of battles past. It’s not different.”
This time, the utility proposes to run the wires atop slender single poles that average 140 feet tall rather than bulky towers used in the past, spokesman Ron Morano said. The proposed upgrades also will allow JCP&L to better monitor and more quickly react to power needs with modern technology that delivers information about system conditions in real time.
The use of the NJ Transit corridor, which is already designated for public use and has existing electric infrastructure, as well as the slimmer monopoles, will help to minimize the disruption on the community, Fakult said.
But Handlin called the tall poles huge and ugly. “They will scar the heart of our community,” Handlin said. “You can’t make a serious argument that these are like the redwoods of California, which are enormous and breathtakingly beautiful. These will be enormous and breathtakingly ugly.”
She said safety and health worries, brought up during the debate in the 1990s, remain as well.
Concerns as to whether high voltage transmission lines pose a health risk “have never been laid to rest,” Handlin said. “There’s never been definitive data that shows they’re safe. On behalf of my community, I don’t see why we should be guinea pigs.”
JCP&L hopes to build the line between June 2017 and June 2019, a project that will create about 245 jobs.
The company plans to hold three open house events in neighborhoods near the proposed project to share information with the public and gather feedback. The company also is setting up a website at www.monmouthreliability.com.