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Town Council discusses possible issues new power lines could cause

By Colin Neary
On January 23, 2012

The primary subject of discussion by the Mansfield Town Council members was the addition of CL&P 345 kv power lines, which they feared would pose a health threat to residents, scar Mansfield parks and lower the value of neighborhoods permanently.

"With no alternatives, the proposed CL&P high-voltage power upgrade will not offer any positive effects to Mansfield," said Shane Freyer, an 8th-semester natural resources major. "Why do we have no wind turbines? The public must be informed of the current risks."

Steve Bacon, a resident of Mansfield and the attorney acting as the representative of Hawthorne Lane residents who will be affected by the power upgrade, offered a potential alternative to moving above ground lines farther south.

"The current CL&P proposal would remove the current buffer of forest that will negatively affect property values and pose health risks to residents due to electromagnetic fields (EMFs),"Bacon said.

"I ask that the council consider opposing the CL&P proposal in its current state, which will cause irreparable damage to Mansfield," said Hawthorne Lane resident Ron Manizza. "I have spoken to real-estate agents who claim that houses exposed to power lines will only sell on the market after the value is lowered. CL&P currently operates on an obsolete power infrastructure, and the company is more concerned about bottom lines and share-holders than Mansfield residents."

Mansfield resident Richard Civie presented the metaphor of the fox in the henhouse when discussing the CL&P proposal. He called for the council for the public to cross-examine CL&P about the dangers of EMFs and clear-cutting acres of forest.

"I have put in over 100 hours of research on this project, and ask that the council form a committee of experts to oppose the high-voltage expansion," Richard Civie said. "CL&P is our adversary, and we no longer have to listen to their opinion."

Victor Civie, a representative of Citizens United of Mansfield, referenced a state statute that requires power lines to be built underground.

"The transmission EMFs from above-ground power-lines is known to be dangerous, while below-ground power lines are not known to produce above-ground EMFs," Victor Civie said. "In addition, the cost ratio for under-ground power lines in comparison to above-ground is approximately 2:1."

Barbara Byron of Mansfield Center said, "Additional transmission wires will be will be unsightly and dangerous. The high-voltage expansion will destroy the charm of Mansfield and offer health hazards."

The Connecticut Siting Council will ultimately be the body to decide whether or not the project proceeds.

Director of Planning & Development Linda Painter said, "While underground power lines are being considered by the Siting Council, they are not likely considering alterations to the current proposals."

Painter said there are agricultural concerns with placing underground power lines beneath farmland, as complications and maintenance may interrupt planting or ruin crops.

"The construction of a monopole on agricultural land will limit the forest removal by 20 feet," Painter said.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has already opposed the proposal, but is offering the possibility for underground and monopole alternatives for future mitigation with CL&P. Painter also indicated that current literature covers the cost of off-season construction for farmers, but whether or not there will be reimbursement for maintenance is not yet clear.

Council Member Paul M. Shapiro referenced a similar situation involving 345 kv power lines between Western Connecticut towns and Northeast Utilities. Essentially, the towns collaborated and forced Northeast Utilities to offer a compromise that involved underground power-lines and monopoles.

"Personally, I embrace the ‘elegant solution' of the Hawthorne Lane alternative," Shapiro said.

The meeting concluded with a motion to endorse the Planning & Zoning Commission's opposition to the current CL&P proposal, which carried unanimously.

"This is a big victory for the people," Manizza said. 

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