Commissioners Briefed On Major Power Line Project

SNOW HILL – A new regional power line got conditional support from the Worcester County Commissioners this week, with the caveat that something be worked out to satisfy Dorchester County’s objections to the project.

PJM, the 13-state electricity transmission grid operator that covers Delmarva, needs to add a new transmission line to the area or there will be rolling blackouts during peak usage throughout the region by 2014, said Cathy Bassett, a consultant for the project.

Currently, electricity is supplied to the Delmarva peninsula through a single point in the north.

“Ultimately, we’re not going to be able to keep plugging into that extension cord,” said Bassett.

“You’ve got a major shortage of electricity you’re going to have to face,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley. “There are going to be people shut down and that’s not that far away. We have not addressed the need in the last 20 years but we have kept building.”

The Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP), which will not cross Worcester County, is designed to reach 150 miles from Possum Point, Va. to Indian River, Del. The project will cost $1.2 million and serve 51 million customers.

Twenty-seven miles of MAPP would be built in Dorchester County, where the MAPP line has seen strong opposition.

“They don’t want to see overhead power lines,” said Bassett.

The Dorchester County Council objects to the transmission lines being built above ground, which, they say, would harm the tourism and agriculture industries.

While much of MAPP will be built in place of existing lines, the Dorchester County portion will add new lines to the landscape.

Dorchester County would like to see the MAPP lines either underground or underwater, options which greatly increase the cost of the work.

“Underground is more expensive. Under the water is much more expensive,” said Bassett.

Commission President Louise Gulyas understands Dorcester’s position.

“They want them underground and I agree with that,” said Gulyas. “I think it’s the way to go.”

Transmission lines of this size see some reliability issues when underground or under the water, Bassett said.

Those transmission lines also are more difficult to repair, said Joe Smith of Delmarva Power, which prolongs outages and problems because it takes longer to fix the issue.

“I just hate to muscle one of our sister counties into something they don’t want to do,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs, who added she was concerned that Worcester County’s support for the project could cancel out Dorchester County’s opposition.

Boggs suggested working regionally to develop a position on MAPP, so all counties could lobby for the same thing.

Politically, Boggs said Worcester County does not want to offend Dorchester County, whose help Worcester might need on future issues.

While the Dorchester County Council voted against the above ground lines, the council’s approval is not required for MAPP to go forward.

The Maryland Public Service Commission will have the final say. The project also needs approvals or permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland Board of Public Works and the Critical Area Commission.

The commissioners voted unanimously to write a letter supporting the concept, but also expressing support for a resolution Dorchester County is happy with.