The National Park Service (NPS) has given final approval to the Susquehanna-Roseland power line, a major transmission grid upgrade planned for the Northeast U.S.
According to New Jersey utility Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G), which is building the transmission line with Pennsylvania-based PPL Electric Utilities, the project will improve grid reliability and reduce electric bills. The project was one of seven priority grid upgrades fast-tracked by the Obama administration in October 2011.
The 500 kV power line will run from Berwick, Pa., to Roseland, N.J. The independent regional power grid operator, PJM Interconnection, ordered the new line in order to prevent overloads on other existing power lines.
According to PSE&G, the project will save consumers an estimated $200 million per year by relieving the congestion that currently exists on the power grid.
The utilities' chosen route has already been approved by both the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. About 95% of the route will follow the path of an existing 85-year-old power line that must be replaced because it is approaching the end of its useful life and is undersized for today's electricity demands.
The route crosses about four miles of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail on the path of an existing power line. The utilities already have an existing property easement through the park service units, and the existing line had been in place for decades before the park units were established.
In order to mitigate the unavoidable impacts of the power line on federal lands, as required by the NPS, PSE&G and PPL Electric Utilities will contribute to a fund administered by a nonprofit group, the companies explain. As directed by the NPS, the money will be used to purchase or preserve land for public use, compensate for wetlands impacts, and fund cultural and historic preservation activities.
The Susquehanna-Roseland project does not require significant widening of the existing right of way on federal land, PSE&G notes. The current utility corridor through the NPS has cleared widths of up to 200 feet. The only additional right of way and clearing needed by the utilities is 50 additional feet of right of way for 0.7 miles in Pennsylvania where the existing corridor is 100 feet wide.
Several miles of the companies' easements are wider than the 200 feet needed for the project, and the excess easement areas will be transferred to the NPS as part of the mitigation plan.
The two utilities have many of the permits required for construction along the route and have pending applications with federal, state and local authorities to obtain the balance of the necessary permits. The NPS has said it intends to issue the required federal construction permits soon.