LAKE PLACID - In the wake of the 19-hour blackout that left this village without power on the night of Feb. 25 and morning of Feb. 26, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and officials from the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the powerline that was affected.
Speaking at Monday's regularly scheduled village board meeting, Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office helped to set up and organize the meeting that will be attended by several DEC personnel as well as Randall, North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi and Lake Placid electric Superintendent Peter Kroha.
Randall said the main focus of the meeting is to discuss what can be done to prevent a similar outage in the future by perhaps trimming back trees in the narrow right of way through which the powerline travels between Ray Brook and Lake Placid.
"What I am most concerned about right now is making sure that the powerline is protected from the trees," Randall said. "And much of the corridor is open and the powerline is not at the mercy of nature, but there are certain areas where there are banks and there are trees on those banks.
"To try to address the real issue here which is that the corridor has trees in it that have the capability to take that line out," he continued. "I was encouraged in the telephone conversation I had when that was proposed to believe that perhaps we can do something to at least get rid of that risk, which would be a major improvement from our perspective."
Randall said another concern of the village and town is the maintenance of some of the powerline poles that have been there for nearly 40 years.
Randall said last week Randall the blackout was one of the top three weather emergencies in this village's modern history and that some of the village's bigger businesses individually lost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.
Speaking last week, DEC spokesman David Winchell said that every part of the power line south of state Route 86 resides in the right of way within the Saranac Lake Wild Forest. He added that he anticipates the DEC will conduct "extensive research" about the history of the power line and the corridor it runs through, considering village officials' post-blackout thoughts.
"It would appear to me it would be DEC that would have the lead on reviewing it and making any determinations regarding that access," Winchell said last week.
Also last week, Kroha - who has been with the village electric department since when the line was installed in the lead up to the 1980 Olympics - said the only way to solve the problem is to widen the right of way through which the power line travels to Lake Placid.
"The problem with the right of way is, to have that right of way for the Olympics, we had to go down the train tracks, and it's a very, very narrow right of way," Kroha said.
"Normally when they build transmission lines, they cut back 50 to 60 feet - both sides - of any trees," he added. "This is like 10 to 15 feet, and it's state land. National Grid went in and marked a lot of trees to be cut, back in ?right after the (1998) ice storm - and we were only allowed to cut a portion of those trees because it's on state land."
The power line's construction was a hot-button topic in the lead-up to the then-controversial 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, as it was constructed across mostly private land ?that of more than 30 land owners - between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. State Public Service Commission Chairman Charles Zielinski defended the construction project in a letter to the editor the Enterprise published on Sept. 7, 1978. He said the power line was to be constructed on an existing right of way cleared for a previous 46,000-volt line, as well as along road and railroad corridors. He noted that they tried to "minimize the amount of tree-clearing required for the right-of-way."
He continued to write how the route was proposed by Lake Placid and certified on the merits of "environmental compatibility" and "public need" by the PSC, DEC and APA.