Farmers gathered in Albion last month to protest the LS Power project crossing their land. Communities in the midcoast have been pushing to raise awareness about the power lines that could cut through miles of woods and farmlands. Credit: Murray Carpenter / Maine Public

When the Aroostook Renewable Gateway power corridor was approved by the state legislature earlier this year, many in the midcoast didn’t realize how it would affect towns outside of northern Maine. Now, months later, residents are rallying against the energy project.

LS Power began sending letters to midcoast residents last month warning that the project could cut through their land.

That led to a July 19 farmer protest in Albion to bring attention to the issue, some arriving by tractor and carrying signs in support of local farms. 

Although a final route for the power lines hasn’t been selected yet and multiple routes are being considered, community members want their local governments to find ways to protect their land. The corridor would connect a planned Aroostook County wind project to the New England power grid.

Unity resident Josh Kercsmar has been working to get questions answered about the project since he found out his land was in one of the potential transmission line pathways. While researching the proposed corridor path, he found it could impact multiple local farms as well as a protected town water source. 

Residents and landowners have expressed concerns about the proposed LS Power transmission line route for the Aroostook Renewable Gateway. Credit: Courtes of LS Power

Kercsmar spoke out about his concerns regarding the power project at Unity’s Aug. 1 Select Board meeting. He is now working with the town to form a citizen committee to raise local awareness and formulate the town’s response. Between 10 and 15 potential members have expressed interest so far, he said. 

“We do feel urgency because we don’t know what that timeline is, but we do get the sense that there’s this sort of limited window for public feedback,” he said. 

A starting place would be to review local ordinances that could potentially limit the corridor’s path, Kercsmar said. Other towns have already started exploring those options as well.

In Freedom, representatives from LS Power answered questions at a Planning Board meeting on Tuesday from town officials and more than 60 attendees. 

Planning Board Chair Tyler Hadyniak said he appreciated that the company’s representatives came to speak, and that he’s encouraging other members of the board to keep an open mind about the project. 

“I think the project deserves a fair shake, an open mind, by decision makers as well as residents who are impacted or potentially impacted,” Hadyniak said. 

Still, he said it’s an emotional issue and he’s heard several residents raise concerns about the project both at the recent meeting and to the Planning Board directly. He still has unanswered questions himself about the timeline on the company’s selection of a specific route for the corridor. Ultimately, the town’s Planning Board will be responsible for reviewing the power lines should the company choose the route through Freedom.

Tensions have been high in Dixmont as well, and concerns go beyond the power lines because LS Power has also proposed building a substation in the community. 

First Selectman David Bright said the Dixmont board hasn’t taken a formal position, but has heard from concerned residents about the project including local farmers whose crops would grow directly below the power lines. 

The Select Board recently appointed Mark Guzzi, who owns Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont, to act as the liaison between the town and residents about the power project, Bright said. The goal is to make sure residents’ concerns are heard as the town plans its response. 

An important part of any response from impacted communities will be working together, Bright said. Since there still isn’t a final determination on where the lines will run, Bright said there’s potential for towns to turn against each other when it comes down to deciding the final route.

“I don’t wanna be at loggerheads with another town,” Bright said. 

Kercsmar in Unity agrees that a unified response from the potentially impacted towns could make a big difference. 

“If you have a bunch of local communities saying this is not a good project, then I think it behooves the state to listen to those communities,” Kercsmar said.

Braeden Waddell is a reporter covering Belfast and Waldo County. He grew up in Waldoboro and joined the Bangor Daily News in 2023 after working as an associate producer for National Public Radio. He graduated...