National Park Service Releases Draft EIS on Transmission Line Across Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Delaware Water Gap NRA

A voluminous evaluation document has been released on the proposed expansion of a power transmission corridor through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, but the National Park Service has not recommended a direction to go.

Under the proposal, the Susquehanna to Roseland Transmission Line that carries a 230-kilovolt line through the three units of the National Park System would be upgraded to carry a double circuit 500 kilovolt line. But opponents have said that a transmission-line corridor sprouting 200-foot-tall towers should not be permitted within the National Park System.

Six alternatives are contained in the draft environmental impact statement. The "environmentally preferred" alternative would deny the company's request to expand the transmission corridor.

Several of the alternatives that would allow the transmission corridor upgrade would expand the corridor anywhere from to 150 feet to nearly 400 feet, and it would run along possibly 5.4 miles of park lands, according to the documents.

The utility's proposed route, as outlined under alternative two, would "follow the corridor of the existing transmission line through DEWA, MDSR, and APPA for 4.3 miles, requiring an expansion of the cleared ROW to approximately 200 to 380 feet in width."

"It’s hard to see how the NPS and Obama administration could allow a negative impact to get a whole lot worse and likely cause impairment of the park by allowing 200-foot towers to be built," said Bryan Faehner, the National Parks Conservation Association's associate director for park uses.

"Unlike the past (when there was no park), the NPS and Obama administration have a decision-making opportunity. Park advocates don’t believe the NPS should be in the business of expanding the scale of powerlines through the boundaries of national parks," added Mr. Faehner. "Certainly, such action would be turning the NPS’s preservation mandate on its head."

The document is open for public review and comment through January 31.

“Delaware Water Gap alone receives more than five million visitors annually – most of which come from nearby urban areas – seeking the park’s inspiring views and outstanding recreational opportunities," Mr. Faehner said in urging the public to take a stand on the project. "Approval of this proposal would limit the ability for future visitors to experience the park’s views as we do today.

"Simply put, the National Park Service should not approve massive power lines that may impair the very resources they are mandated to protect. This development can only harm visitors’ experience in national parks and threatens the economic benefits that parks provide to local communities."