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Open house held to discuss transmission line

The company proposing 21 wind turbines atop the Broad Mountain held an open house for Nesquehoning residents Tuesday night.

The event was focused on a 2.5-mile power line from Route 54 to the top of Broad Mountain, not the proposed wind farm which the line will serve.

While the wind farm is located entirely in Packer Township, the transmission line will connect along Route 54 in Nesquehoning, which is why the wind farm developer scheduled the information session at the Nesquehoning Community Center.

“This is a show and tell. The wind farm needs a transmission line, this is where it boils down to, and we wanted to get any feedback or concerns,” said Robert Miller, project manager for Canada-based Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., the company which is overseeing the construction of the wind farm.

The company also held an open house in Packer Township in February when the project was announced.

The proposed 64 kV power line will parallel Dennison Road on the east side, connecting existing power lines on the north side of Route 54.

It will take about three to four months to build and would begin construction at the same time as the wind turbines, if approved.

It will have 24 masts, and a 100-foot corridor will be cleared around the proposed route.

Several factors determined the route, Miller said. It minimizes construction costs and impact on the environment and nearby residents.

It’s not clear what role Nesquehoning Borough will play in the process.

Council President David Hawk said that like any other plan, the project should adhere to all zoning and planning regulations.

Miller said public utilities are exempt from local zoning and land development ordinances.

While Algonquin is building the power line, Miller said when it is completed it will be owned and maintained by PPL.

The line is being built to PPL’s specifications using the utility’s approved engineers and contractors.

“We are basically a subcontractor for them,” he said.

The borough could be involved in the project in other ways as well.

There is a possible visual impact from the tallest turbines, which would stand 656 feet at the tip of the blades. Broad Mountain Power plans to float balloons to the approximate height July 20-22 to simulate the impact of the turbines.

Hawk said he also wants the borough to be protected in case any borough streets are damaged during construction. He said he would also like to explore purchasing power from the wind farm if it provides an economic benefit to the borough.

The residents who attended the meeting were interested in seeing how the project would benefit Nesquehoning.

Richard Hunsicker said he would be in favor of the project if it created local jobs. It’s estimated that Broad Mountain will only have one or two full-time employees, and the company that actually manufactures the turbines will have four to five.

“If it was industry or something creating jobs, I’d be for it. This isn’t creating jobs,” he said.

Not all the residents were opposed to the turbines. Joe Totani said he doesn’t see the wind turbines having a negative impact on property values in the Lake Hauto Community, where he lives.

“They fought the co-gen plant for years and it still came, and property values have not decreased,” Totani said. “The windmills will come, produce power and the property values will still go up.”

Miller directed any questions about the proposed 21-turbine wind farm to the ongoing zoning hearing in Packer Township. The next hearing is scheduled for July 8 at Weatherly Area High School.

Robert Miller, center, project manager for Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., speaks with Gary Porembo of Nesquehoning at an open house Tuesday night. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS