A revived proposal to run FirstEnergy’s 138-kilovolt transmission lines along an abandoned railroad grade might offer a glimmer of hope to farmers and landowners along Route 528 in Geauga County.
The corridor for the 80-foot-high wooden poles and wires was first proposed about 10 years ago and is called the Rachel Route. It starts on Route 322 in East Claridon Township and goes west, then north to First Energy’s main transmission line.
The corridor would go through property now in use by the Geauga County Park System as a bike path.
The Geauga County Park Board met April 19 to pass a resolution to oppose FirstEnergy using the abandoned railroad grade that is the site of the Maple Highlands Bike Trail. The three-commission board delayed action at least until its next meeting in May, but said they feel the district is legally obliged to oppose the use of park land for the 60-foot-wide corridor.
Some of the property along the bike path has deed restrictions on it, they said.
One item blunting their urgency to pass Resolution 20-08 was FirstEnergy’s motion asking Administrative Law Judge Janet Stoneking for a continuance from mid-May until June for its hearing on the proposed corridor.
Tom Lee, with the Cleveland law firm Taft Stettinius and Hollister, represented Citizens Advocating Responsible Energy (CARE) at the recent park board meeting in Chester.
The group is a grassroots organization of farmers and landowners based along Route 528 in Montville, Thompson and Huntsburg townships.
The proposed corridor that roughly parallels Route 528 is currently FirstEnergy’s “preferred” location for the power lines. More than 100 letters from Geauga County residents asking the board not to act hastily on the resolution were presented during the meeting, and Lee asked the board to consider options that were presented to the Ohio Power Siting Board at the end of March.
“FirstEnergy wants to investigate. We don’t know what their investigation will yield,” Lee said.
“This power line’s going to be built. The question is when and where.”
A second proposal mentioned during the meeting suggests the corridor could follow the railroad grade clear into the City of Chardon to the Pinegrove Substation on Fifth Avenue — a path that would require no new clearing of woodlands and would be the shortest path at 7.6 miles.
The cross-country route would require 14.7 miles of excavation and construction through woods and fields, according to Citizens Advocating Responsible Energy.
Last summer, FirstEnergy’s original preferred path was along residential Clay Street. In the fall, the company designated the cross-country route through farms along Route 528 as its preferred location with the Clay Street route an alternate.
Park District Director Tom Curtin said he met recently with the Ohio Power Siting Board and FirstEnergy officials and was told FirstEnergy is not interested in putting power lines along the Maple Highlands Bike Trail.
However, due diligence requires the energy company to compare and rate the alternative. A 3-mile trail walk has been tentatively set for April 30 beginning at the Ruth Substation.