As PPL Electric Utilities works to submit an application for a new power line traversing parts of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Monroe counties, possibly by the end of summer, several state agencies are hoping to minimize environmental impacts from the 57-mile span.
The proposed route of the new line originates at the Jenkins Substation in Plains Township, travels through Bear Creek and Buck townships into Thornhurst and past Lake Wallenpaupak before culminating at the existing Paupak Substation in Wayne County. Along the way the line would pass through several state gamelands, the Lackawanna State Forest and tributaries of the Lehigh River.
Dean Druckenmiller, president of the Lehigh River Coldwater Association, said his group is keeping close tabs on the proposed line and hopes impacts on the river tributaries can be minimized.
‚??We don‚??t like to see any clearing along a waterway because once you remove that tree canopy you get a thermal impact on that stream,‚?Ě Druckenmiller said. ‚??It would be beneficial if they can maintain a canopy over the streams.‚?Ě
PPL spokesman Paul Wirth said stream crossings for the new 150-foot wide right-of-way are inevitable, but the company does try to minimize the impacts in a number of ways.
Pole locations are shifted as far back from the stream bank as possible, resulting in less clearing along the waterway for a crane pad, Wirth said.
Also, stream crossings are usually made at a right angle so the cleared area is as narrow as possible, according to Wirth.
The line crosses portions of the Lackawanna State Forest along the southern edge of Lackawanna County, and PPL has submitted a right-of-way application to the state Bureau of Forestry.
Review of the application is pending and no approval has been given for any crossing on state forest land, according to district forester Nick Lylo.
Under the proposed route, the line would cross state forest land in the Thornhurst area along with locations adjacent to Choke Creek Falls and Phelps Road.
At these points the proposed route could face some environmental obstacles.
‚??One of our most aesthetic and popular areas is Choke Creek Falls, and we don‚??t want any impact on that area,‚?Ě Lylo said. ‚??There are also numerous wetlands we want to avoid, along with the Lehigh River drainage and tributaries, which are classified as exceptional value.
‚??All that would have to be looked into and we will do a thorough analysis.‚?Ě
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is scrutinizing the proposed route, which crosses three gamelands tracts ‚?? SGL 91 and 135 in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, and SGL 312 in Wayne County.
Pete Sussenbach, land management supervisor for the PGC‚??s northeast region, said his agency has yet to receive a right-of-way application from PPL but they do have an idea of areas to avoid.
‚??We‚??re not in favor of the line going through the middle of the large, contiguous forests that are on state land,‚?Ě Sussenbach said. ‚??We‚??d rather see it go along the fringe than open the middle of that large unbroken forest up to a pathway for invasive species.‚?Ě
Sussenbach said the fringe area of the state land is already developed with road infrastructure in place.
Finding a way to minimize impacts to the environment and to residents in the area is a major challenge with the project, Wirth said.
‚??You have competing interests and it‚??s difficult to find a fair balance. It‚??s extremely time consuming and costs millions of dollars in studies,‚?Ě he said.
PPL is negotiating right-of-way agreements with property owners along the proposed route along with conducting environmental studies as it prepares to submit an application to the Public Utilities Commission.
That should happen by the end of summer or early fall, Wirth said, and the PUC approval process could take a year or more. If approved, PPL hopes to begin work on the new line in 2014.
PPL is seeking public comment on the proposed Northeast/Pocono Reliability Project power line.
Comments may be submitted online at http://nep.pplreliablepower.com/PublicInvolvement or by phone at 1-888-654-0823.
PPL offers an interactive map for the public to mark areas of concern. The map can be found at http://nep.pplreliablepower.com/InteractiveMap/PublicInputMap.aspx.