First approval given for power line that would run through Capital Region

The state Department of State has given conditional approval to plans for a $1.9 billion electrical

The state Department of State has given conditional approval to plans for a $1.9 billion electrical transmission line that will run primarily underwater from the Canadian border to New York City.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express cable can be installed in Lake Champlain and the Hudson River in a way consistent with the state’s Coastal Management Plan, the department concluded in a decision dated Wednesday.

There are several conditions, however, limiting where in the Hudson River the 1,000-megawatt cable can be buried, and what times of year river-bottom trenching work can be done.

Project developer Transmission Developers Inc. of Toronto said the restrictions are acceptable. Company officials said they were pleased by the approval, which is the first of several state OKs they will need.

“We are another step closer to our goal of providing New York with an innovative transmission line that will improve the security and reliability of the grid, lower New Yorkers’ electric bills, and provide a cleaner and greener alternative source of power for the state,” said TDI President Donald Jessome.

TDI’s plan calls for purchasing hydropower in Quebec and transmitting it by 330-mile-long direct-current cable from the Canadian border to New York City.

The line would run underneath Lake Champlain and the Champlain Canal, and also in the bed of the Hudson River from south of Albany to Yonkers. Through the Capital Region, it would be out of the river but buried underground, in railroad rights-of-way in Saratoga, Schenectady and Albany counties.

As one of the Department of State conditions, the line will enter the Hudson starting in the Catskill area, instead of 20 miles farther north at Coeymans.

The condition is intended to keep the project from trenching in a sensitive fish and wildlife area of the river.

The TDI project is currently under regulatory review by a number of other agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Public Service Commission. TDI officials said the Department of State approval is important because establishing compatibility with the state’s Coastal Management Plan is a requirement to get federal permits from the Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers.

As a condition, the Department of State said the underwater cable must be buried as deep as possible given current technology — about six feet below the lake or river bottom. It must avoid some specific fish and wildlife habitats in the Hudson River.

In the written decision, First Deputy Secretary of State Daniel E. Shapiro said the project appears to be consistent with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to make the state’s energy sources more environmentally sustainable.

“If constructed as proposed and conditioned, the project can provide several important energy benefits,” Shapiro wrote. “Because the electricity is predominantly generated by hydropower, it will improve air quality by displacing less-clean generators and will not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Project backers hope to have all government approvals by next year, and be ready to start construction in the summer of 2012.

TDI is owned by the Blackstone Group, a capital investment firm in New York City.

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