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Residents have made no official comments on power line upgrade project

Record will remain open for 15 days starting Friday, March 25

March 25, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

No Washington County residents have officially commented yet on a power line upgrade project that will stretch through Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties, officials said.

The Maryland Public Service Commission held a public hearing Thursday at Hager Hall on Dual Highway as part of the application review for Potomac Edison's proposed upgrade to the hardware and capacity along the 40-mile power line known as the Monocacy-Ringgold-Carroll Transmission Line.

Neither of the two residents who attended Thursday's hearing spoke.

The record will remain open for 15 days starting Friday, March 25, PSC Hearing Examiner Dennis H. Sober said. Anyone who wants to submit written comment may do so in that time period, he said.

Todd Meyers, spokesman for FirstEnergy, of which Potomac Edison is a subsidiary, said the project has received little comment in any of the three counties.

In Frederick County, no citizens attended the public hearing held Tuesday, while in Carroll County, four attended the Wednesday hearing and two spoke, he said.

Because Potomac Edison plans to upgrade the system within the existing right of way, there has been little interest from the public, Meyers said.

The project will replace the existing 138 kilovolt power lines and wooden support structures with 230 kilovolt lines on steel monopoles, according to a fact sheet from FirstEnergy.

Reconstructing the lines will relieve potential future overloads on the lines and transformers, FirstEnergy said.

Potomac Edison aims to complete the project before 2013 when, if left as is, the lower capacity line could result in blackouts for as many as 65,000 customers in Frederick, Montgomery, Howard and Carroll counties, the fact sheet said.

Washington County likely would not be affected, Meyers said.

It has been more than 15 years since capacity of the MRC line was upgraded, although demand for energy has grown by more than 50 percent in that same period, he said.

Meyers said the modern 230 kilovolt lines will be more efficient to accommodate future growth in the region.

The MRC line is one of the last stretches of 138 kilovolt line remaining for Potomac Edison to upgrade, he said.

Most of the H-shaped structures supporting the line are wooden and  have been in service for 55 years, Meyers said.

The self-supporting steel poles will be an average of 20 feet taller than the wooden ones and will be placed in the same right of way, avoiding the need to create a new path for the power line, he said.

If approved by the state, the project is expected to start in the summer of 2011 and continue through 2013, he said.

Only about three miles of the 40-mile line stretch is in Washington County, from the Ringgold substation near Smithsburg over South Mountain to Frederick County.

FirstEnergy expects to begin substantial work on the line between the Ringgold substation in Smithsburg and the Catoctin substation in Thurmont, Md., in the fall of 2012, Meyers said.

The Ringgold substation also may require expansion that could involve moving the fence outward and adding transformers, he said.

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