State Senate approves bill to carry out land-swap measure to allow power lines from Colton to Tupper
The state Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that will carry out the land swap authorized by a Constitutional Amendment approved by voters in 2009.
The agreement provided for a roadside line bringing power from Stark Falls Reservoir in Colton along NYS Hwy. 56 south to the Village of Tupper Lake.“This is the final step in a process that brought a reliable electric supply to the Village of Tupper for the first time,” said Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization. “Frequent power outages were an unfortunate fact of life, and were dangerous in the winter.”
It was determined that the route along NYS Hwy. 56 in Colton would cause the least environmental disturbance, even though it would cross the Adirondack Forest Preserve. However, power lines and other privately owned facilities are not allowed in the Forest Preserve. A land swap was needed.
“That route required the use of six acres of roadside at the edge of the ‘forever wild’ state Forest Preserve along State Route 56 in Colton,” Houseal said. “So we worked with the state Legislature to gain approval for a resolution authorizing a vote on the issue in the 2009 general election. The Constitutional Amendment authorized the state to swap those six acres of roadside for 10 or more acres of lands to be added back into the Forest Preserve.”
National Grid eventually agreed to purchase 20 acres of land along the Raquette River, not far from the power line, for addition to the Forest Preserve. All Constitutional amendments require passage by two separately elected state Legislatures, in this case the 2007-08 and 2009-2010 legislatures, and then a whole-state referendum.
Back in the fall of 2009, the Adirondack Council’s staff traveled to every city in New York that had its own daily newspaper, major radio station or television station, to explain the amendment and encourage voters to seek it out on the ballot. That resulted in dozens of news articles and editorials calling on voters to approve the amendment. It passed by a two-to-one margin.
“We worked with the community, National Grid and the New York Power Authority, and the Department of Environmental Conservation to find a sensible route for the new line,” said Houseal. “Then we worked statewide to gain attention and approval for the Constitutional Amendment that allowed this to happen.”
Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, whose district includes the eastern half of St. Lawrence County, and Assemblyman Bob Sweeney sponsored the legislation -- A.8214 (Sweeney) and S. 4861-A (Griffo).
“It is gratifying to see the wonderful new lands that will be added to the public Forest Preserve when the Governor signs this bill,” Houseal said. “The first test any amendment must pass before we will support it is whether it will provide an overwhelming benefit to the Forest Preserve. This one passed that test easily, and it had the extra benefit of making Tupper Lake a safer place to live and work. A reliable power supply should also help spur economic development.”
Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the preserve.