Wilton residents will need to get used to a new feature in Wilton’s landscape. Eversource is installing new–and much taller–power line towers along their main transmission corridor running through the middle of Wilton. The tallest tower, right at the corner of Ridgefield Rd. and Rte. 7 is very visible from every direction, even the one looking across the Norwalk River from Wilton Center.
Eversource spokesman Frank Poirot says the new towers are part of a project to replace existing lattice-work and H-frame structures with new, monopole ones, along seven miles of existing transmission right-of-way. The scope of the project runs approximately from the substation near Rings End Lumber up to a substation in Redding.
“The older towers have been holding up transmission lines for approximately 50 years, give or take,” says Poirot. “They pretty much have served their useful and reliable life-span. The towers that are out there now are slightly taller, to meet upgraded reliability standards.”
How much taller? The older lattice towers were 77 ft. tall on average; the replacement monopoles average around 91 ft. high.
“Since that line was first built, the Northeast has endured some not only rough weather but also the need for greater, more reliable electric service. Increasing the height of those structures helps address that need,” Poirot explains.
Crews have been working on and off in Wilton since December, moving along the right-of-way and working along or near the Metro-North train line, parallel to Rte. 7. They began working on the towers near the Rte. 33/Ridgefield Rd. intersection last week.
The tallest tower located right at the intersection is also topped by a number of cell phone transmitters and antennae.
“The state regulators that review and approve our projects prefer that we work with cell phone providers to co-locate their facilities as well. That’s so you don’t have multiple structures with slightly different missions standing side by side. Rather than have the cellphone companies all put up their own structures adding to the number of structures in the field, they co-locate their antennas on our structures.”
Whether or not that will improve cell phone reception in Wilton Center remains to be seen.
The tower replacement work in Wilton should be completed by June, but Poirot says there’s restoration work to be done after that. “We go back and remove any construction equipment like crane pads and things like that. We may do some seeding and planting in other areas to stabilize soils. That could go through the rest of the year–although sometimes summer isn’t the best time to be planting new grass or plants, but the fall is ideal. We’ll plant then and finish up the project that way.”
Eversource didn’t need to seek out any permits or permission from the town to do the work; it’s one-for-one tower replacement in their own right-of-way. “Just the same, we’ve been keeping abutters–residential and commercial property owners on that right of way apprised of all of our plans, as well as our construction schedule. And we’ve been briefing the town leaders–your first selectman has been receiving regular updates on how that work is going.”
Vanderslice knows that some people won’t like the way the new poles look, but says the town has to figure out how to accept them.
“The Connecticut Siting Council has jurisdiction over this project. All decisions were made by the council. Whether one prefers the mono or tower style pole, most of us had become use to the previous poles. For most of us, they blended into the landscape. The new poles are a bit startling right now, but with the passage of time and some weathering, I expect they will also blend in,” she notes, adding that Eversource personnel have been very responsive to resident inquiries. “I encourage anyone with questions to contact Eversource.”
One other thing for residents who are grumbling about the way the towers look and how they stand out on the horizon, the replacement project, says Poirot, is all about improving the reliability of Eversource’s power system.
“Under certain conditions–like a 3-day heat wave–we could have some reliability issues stemming from the older towers and lines. If we replace them with something newer and more efficient, that issue would be addressed. That’s the driver and ultimately, customer service is what it’s all about, providing reliable electric service to our customers in Southwest Connecticut,” he says.
Eversource has a transmission information number for residents with questions to call and find out more information about the project–800.793.2202.