Is a Green Future Worth Spoiling the Appalachian Trail?

  A proposed hydropower transmission line in Maine would impact the AT, wildlife, recreation, and tourism. Is it worth it?

The proposed project, known as New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), is a 145-mile transmission line winding down from the Canadian border through Maine’s forests, and would ferry hydroelectric energy from Canadian dams to the New England grid. It would cross the AT three times within a mile, south of Moxie Pond and about 130 miles from the trail’s momentous conclusion at Mount Katadhin, impacting views from several overlooks.

“There’s a certain awe in thru-hikers, especially those who are coming from the South,” a local said. “They’ve just hiked on these regions where there are a lot of reminders of civilizations, road crossings, and infrastructure. What I’ve heard from them is that Maine is more noted for having that backcountry experience.”

Many of the opponents of NECEC—65 percent of Maine residents are not in favor of the project-according to a recent poll—worry that the line will threaten this scenic character. Maine’s northern woods have been relatively spared from development. They have a legacy of sporting camps; offer hiking, rafting, fishing, kayaking, snowmobiling, and other recreational opportunities, all of which support a robust outdoor industry and local economies. While the exact impacts of the line are up for debate, those who oppose it fear it would bifurcate “what is basically the largest expanse of undeveloped forest in the eastern United States.”

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