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Power line issue heads to statewide referendum

TUPPER LAKE - Although it's already been activated, Tupper Lake's new electric transmission line faces one final hurdle: a statewide referendum this fall.

The power line, which runs from the Stark Falls Reservoir to the village of Tupper Lake, needed a constitutional amendment because it traverses a section of the state Forest Preserve protected by the "Forever Wild" clause of the New York State Constitution.

The Senate and the Assembly have both approved the amendment, noting that Tupper Lake has been a frequent victim of mid-winter blackouts because it only has one power source. That electrical line starts in Malone, splits in Saranac Lake and ends in Tupper Lake.

While environmental groups typically have challenged constitutional amendments of the Forever Wild clause, the Adirondack Council supported an agreement to swap a section of forest preserve for a larger parcel of land off of Route 56.

"We said we would lead an effort to approve a Constitutional Amendment allowing the Legislature to swap a few acres of roadside Forest Preserve for a wilder parcel away from the highway," Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said in a prepared statement.

The last challenge they face, Sheehan said, is informing voters statewide of the amendment. With no major elections planned this fall, turnout is expected to be significantly lower than usual.

Sheehan said he will be leading a "get-out-the-vote" effort to educate New Yorkers about the importance of allowing the project to move forward.

"I will tour the state this summer to speak with editorial boards about supporting and promoting this referendum," Sheehan said.

The bill amending the constitution had to be passed by two separately elected state legislatures. The first amendment passed in 2008 and a second bill passed earlier this year, after the November 2008 elections. A referendum will now go before voters on November 3.

If it's approved, the state Legislature still has to pass enabling legislation to allow the land swap.

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