The New York State Public Service Commission recently granted approval for the construction of a new 115 kV electric transmission line from Spier Falls, Saratoga County, to Rotterdam, Schenectady County. The transmission line will be owned by National Grid.

The granting of a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need will enable construction of an electric transmission line of approximately 33 miles between National Grid's Spier Falls substation, located next to Moreau State Park in Saratoga County, and its Rotterdam substation, located in Schenectady County, as well as reconstruction of a 4-mile spur line from the "Ballston Tap" to the Ballston Spa substation.

The new lines will be constructed within existing rights-of-way owned in fee by National Grid. However, their placement along the edge of existing rights-of-way will require the taking of 20- or 25-foot-wide "vegetation management easements," as well as "danger tree easements" of indeterminate widths, along virtually the entire length of the proposed new lines.

This project is the most immediate of a number of planned reinforcements that will address the current and long-range needs of National Grid's Northeast region. Failure to complete the project would leave the existing lines exposed to post-contingency thermal overloads, which could physically damage these facilities and cause interruption of electric service to tens of thousands of customers in the Northeast region.

National Grid will be required to mitigate the impact of the expanded vegetation management areas, which will ensure the safety and reliability of the transmission line, on the neighboring communities. For the most part, it's expected that mitigation will take the form of compensation to the abutting landowners, a process outside the purview of the Commission. Further mitigation will take the form of replanting, where appropriate, to replace taller species with others that will be allowed to grow in the vegetation management areas.

Article VII of the Public Service Law requires the Commission to undertake a balancing of need, environmental impact, and other considerations. In undertaking that balancing, the Commission indicated it is mindful of the opposition that has been expressed and concerns of abutting property owners. Many of their concerns are valid, and the Commission recognizes the impact of this project on their properties. However, in weighing the entire record in this proceeding, the Commission concluded that the project meets a significant need consistent with the long-range plans of National Grid and the New York Independent System Operator.