Cyrway LTE: CMP corridor a fire hazard

From the State House

Over Memorial Day weekend, there was a pole line wildfire in Concord Township, a remote town in Somerset County. This fire broke out along the segment that was recently clear cut for the Central Maine Power Corridor. Ironically, this incident occurred almost exactly one year after I raised the flag with a column, “CMP corridor project will create new wildfire dangers in remote Maine.”

In the case of the Concord Township wildfire, we were incredibly lucky. The fire broke out in Segment 2, not far from the nearest volunteer fire station, and by the grace of God, Northern Clearing, the Wisconsin company that was hired to clear the Corridor, was still present in the area and was able to assist  the local fire department in extinguishing the flames.

This time we were lucky, but what happens next time when a wildfire breaks out in the most remote sections of the powerline? There is no emergency response capability in the first 70 miles of CMP’s for-profit corridor, and the next 30 miles is serviced by only three volunteer fire departments with limited manpower to respond to a crisis. Once Northern Clearing packs up and returns home to Wisconsin, there will be nobody on the ground to help squelch the flames before a relatively minor powerline fire becomes a major wildfire event in some of the most remote and difficult to reach parts of western Maine.

As a retired first responder, I know just how quickly things can get out of hand. In the case of a fire, quick response time is key. That’s why I am particularly concerned about the obvious wildfire risk posed to Maine’s wilderness and rural communities by this unnecessary and unwanted CMP Corridor, and I’m not alone.

The Maine State Federation of Firefighters voiced their concerns to Gov. Janet Mills in a sobering letter that outlined just how unprepared our state would be if such wildfires were to ignite along CMP’s proposed corridor route. In light of the wildfire that broke out on the line over the holiday weekend, I’m more convinced than ever that their concerns are warranted.

This group, which represents more than 6,000 firefighters in our state, concluded, “The preparedness and safety of our firefighters, and other first responders who will respond to NECEC Corridor incidents, has been severely overlooked and their security and safety significantly compromised.”

Let me repeat, because of the CMP Corridor, the safety and security of our first responders will be significantly compromised.

Last year, after voicing my concerns in your paper, I met with CMP officials and the Forest Service to discuss the wildfire issue. In this meeting, we conveyed the need for firefighter training, tote road access and off road fire fighting equipment to enhance area coverage. I am disappointed to report that CMP has acted on none of the recommendations that were laid out in that meeting. It seems that the inherent risk associated with their for-profit line is not a priority for the company.

CMP likes to hang their hat on the fact that Massachusetts ratepayers are fully funding the corridor project, but in the case of a wildfire, it’s the people of Maine that would be responsible for extinguishing the flames.

It’s our wilderness, resources and property that will bear all of the risk so CMP and its foreign shareholders can make nearly $3 billion in profits and Massachusetts can fulfill their energy goals without having to live with the associated infrastructure. All the while, Mainers would be left vulnerable with little more than a few pennies to show for our troubles.

Since CMP was bought by Avangrid, which is owned by Iberdrola, a corporation based out of Spain, reliability and service here in Maine has plummeted. CMP is ranked dead last in customer reliability, and thanks to their questionable business practices, Mainers are plagued with the most frequent and extended power outages in the nation. These are the same actors who are calling the shots with the CMP Corridor.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think this for-profit scheme is worth the risk, not by a long shot. Please join me in voting yes this November to stop it.

Scott Cyrway of Albion, a Republican, is serving his fourth term in Maine Senate.

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  • Sandra Howard
    published this page in News 2021-06-09 07:36:32 -0400