National Grid briefs Athol Selectboard on transmission line upgrades

By Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-23-2023 4:20 PM

ATHOL – Representatives from National Grid provided a briefing on upgrades to transmission lines that bisect the town from north to south, terminating at the substation near the center of town.

Senior Stakeholder Specialist Bethany Rocha and Stephanie LeClair, a public outreach and communications specialist with Power Engineers – consultants to NatGrid – provided the board with details on the project which will take place over the next five years.

Rocha said the lines were originally constructed in 1909 and replaced in 1920, adding “their age requires replacement.” A total of 116 of the 139 existing structures will be replaced.

“In addition to reconstructing the A1/B2 lines they will also be known as the Chestnut Hill Taps,” Rocha said. “The Chestnut Hill Taps were constructed in two phases. The first tap line was energized in 1931, and the second line was energized in 1941.”

Rocha explained that the right of way for the lines will be cleared and maintained to a width of 125 feet. Along the Athol taps, it mostly is cleared and maintained to 125 feet, but in some places the minimum cleared width is 100 feet. The new structures will be built along the same center line as the existing structures in the northern section of the tap. In addition, she said improvement will be made to the existing access road.

“The total tapline for Athol is 4.1 miles long,” Rocha said. “It comes off of the main line in Royalston and ends up at Chestnut Hill Avenue and Main Street in Athol.”

The new structures supporting the power lines will be higher than those being replaced. The existing structures are an average of 48 feet in height and running anywhere from about 34 feet to 66 feet in height above ground. The new single-circuit structures will be approximately 68 to 91 feet in height above ground, with the average being 77.

Construction on the project won’t be getting underway anytime soon, due in part to the permitting process. Rocha said NatGrid will be filing its plan with the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board at the end of April, and the process takes about two years. She added that a number of federal state environmental hurdles also must be cleared, along with the need to receive approval from the town’s Conservation Commission. The project’s schedule calls for all of the permitting to be completed by 2025.

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Work on the overall project is scheduled to get underway next year and be finished by 2028.

“The 2024 start is for the total project, which actually, along the mainline, starts in Vermont and New Hampshire,” Rocha explained. “The mainline is 61 miles long, and so that’s where we’re starting, ahead of the anticipated construction in Massachusetts in 2025.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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