Chilmark residents, particularly along Middle Road, have expressed concern and displeasure with a proposed Eversource project that would bring larger utility poles to Middle Road, and also add more poles. The project has been touted as an effort to bolster resiliency.
Tuesday night at a meeting of the Chilmark select board, energy committee chair Rob Hannemann described the project as a threat to one of Chilmark’s scenic resources. “Fundamentally, we need the leadership of the select board and the town, unless we’re very comfortable with one of our key scenic resources being severely damaged,” Hannemann said. “From the energy committee perspective, we are supportive, of course, of increasing the strength of the grid and the resilience. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t protect our scenic views and the scenic roadways.”
Hannemann pointed to poles Eversource erected on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road some years back.
“Eversource has not learned its lesson from that, even though they had told me that they’ve learned their lesson. The poles there are tremendously prominent, let’s say, and in fact on our scenic roadways — South Road, Middle Road, North Road — we cannot have that looking the way Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road looks. The background here is that the MVC is willing to support us on this whole effort to mitigate the damage to our scenic roadway here.”
Hannemann said if the town wants it, he believed the MVC could hold a DRI hearing on the poles, “even though they may not have the power to stop what Eversource is proposing.”
“I would love to sit down and understand what we can do to take a leadership role, quite frankly,” select board chair Bill Rossi said.
Town administrator Tim Carroll said an information session Eversource held in the Chilmark library on the subject was attended by roughly 18 people, all of whom were critical of the project, and “very critical” of changing the viewshed along Keith Farm on Middle Road.
Carroll said Eversource promised to return with a presentation on what it would cost to bury the lines, or partially bury them, and to provide some examples of projects where they’ve put lines underground.
Carroll said Eversource has yet to get permission from the select board to site additional utility poles.
As a longtime engineer, Hannemann said he wants to see data, as opposed to just assurances that the project will boost resilience.
“They can’t just wave their hands,” he said. “They have to explain what the benefit is going to be.”