Ms. Byrnes lives on a parcel of land her father, 91-year-old Robert Schaefer, provided from the farm he inherited and ran for many years in Pleasant Valley. It was a pleasant place but made distinctly less so by the presence of huge power lines that now hold the prospect of being expanded and enlarged. Ms. Byrnes said the power lines have cost her family, particularly her father, for decades. In the 1960s Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. ran a major power line down the middle of the family farm. Not only did the towers significantly detract from the property’s scenic beauty, but they also created two tax parcels that forced the family to pay more in taxes. For years helicopters sprayed defoliant along the power lines, a practice today done on the ground but still it causes Ms. Byrnes’ family concerns because of nearby wetlands that flow into the Fall Kill Creek. Helicopters also regularly fly low over tree tops to inspect the power lines, and this causes the Byrnes home to rattle. When the power company permitted a fiber optic line to be put along the right-of-way, it meant Ms. Byrnes endured several months of heavy equipment. When clay was brought in and pumped into the ground to surround the buried fiber optic line, it leached into a stream and pond on the family property, creating algae and other problems with these water resources. Ms. Byrnes said that when the power lines were originally routed through her family’s land, they really had no say in the matter. For five decades the power lines have been a nuisance and have impacted their property values. She says her family has owned the property since 1910 and that her father, who remains a passionate steward of the land, is concerned about expanded power lines and the environmental and scenic damage they would cause to the family’s beloved lands.
Mr. and Mrs. Zatwarnicki have been living in Milan for more than 40 years. They built their modular home by themselves, beginning with excavating the basement and constructing the foundation. They always thought they’d live out their lives in their cherished home and had even obtained a variance recently to construct an addition for a live-in caretaker, help that now is needed for Stanley. Since learning of the proposed power line expansion, their lives have been put in limbo at a time when they crave stability. Their home is merely 50 feet from an existing high-voltage power line, and they fear that any expansion will result in their home being taken from them. Mr. Zatwarnicki struggles to understand how he could have sacrificed and fought for his country and now faces a potential government seizure of his property and home. From visits to the local VFW Hall, Mr. Zatwarnicki knows other older veterans in the community also are feeling upended by the transmission lines proposals. He says he and these others are having the well-deserved peace of their later years snatched away from them.
The Kulicks have dedicated 20 years and enormous personal effort to improve their home and pursue a bed-and-breakfast inn that would provide retirement income. Mr. Kulick is a contractor who has been joined by his wife in using their own labor to transform a one-story A-frame house into a two-story structure that they planned to turn into an inn that would provide a retirement business. They now are at a crossroads, having learned that if an expanded transmission line proceeds as currently conceived their home will be lost. They fear the worst because in 1997 the Iroquois gas pipeline project took 2.5 acres of their land and provided meager compensation—a settlement they felt forced to accept amid the prospect that an eminent-domain seizure would yield even less.
Over nearly 20 years, the couple has invested in the property, motivated by a commitment to land conservation and restoration of a historic home. The property has been placed in a conservation easement that protects it forever by allowing no additional building on the site. Going beyond restoring the house, which dates to the mid-1700s, they installed solar systems to generate more electricity than they use. If power lines are expanded, Mr. Bruer and Ms. Mathison could lose a pine woods that buffers the home from the transmission line corridor that is 400 feet away. Historic stone walls could be destroyed and the home’s value seriously deteriorated.
John DeLamater’s grandparents and seven children were in challenging economic times when they accepted a utility company’s payment to run a power line (including a massive tower) through their property on scenic Webb Road. John, a lifelong Claverack resident, and wife Barbara have lived in that house for 50 years and raised their family there. Proud of their home and how they keep it, they each day are struck by the horrible appearance of the hulking transmission tower just outside their windows. Neighbors all along the road, who maintain tidy homes, also must deal with the monstrous power lines. The Delamaters feel strongly that more towers would destroy their home and be detrimental to their neighbors’ homes.
Having lived with the Iroquois gas pipeline project being forced down their throats, Clinton residents like Mr. Vanderlee feel that the town’s unique qualities will be lost if new, towering power lines come about. According to Mr. Vanderlee, Clinton is a bucolic town with a mix of white collar, blue collar, academia and weekend residents—all united by a love for their town. The power line project would alter the community forever. Decision-makers need to consider less disruptive technologies, including burying lines, that may be more expensive to implement but cheaper and safer in the long run, he says. Mr. Vanderlee and his wife have renovated and expanded their home over the years mostly with their own hands to create a special place for themselves and their now-grown kids to visit. Thoughts of a rosy future in a special place are today being supplanted by visions of a bulldozer crushing the property.
People looking for houses in the area seek to enjoy a beautiful setting and special quality of life, says Ms. Dyal. The construction of huge transmission lines—even the prospect of such a project—is having a tremendously negative impact on homeowners and the real estate industry, and could seriously cost all residents of affected communities that could suffer losses in property tax contributions. This could be a blight across some of the most scenic and valuable land in the Hudson Valley, says Ms. Dyal.
For three decades Ms. Tranchita has been raising sheep and llamas as well as chickens. Her animals allow her to produce and sell yarn, fleeces, hats, scarves and other fiber goods. The free-range chickens yield eggs that she sells along with organic maple syrup. Columbia County Tourism markets the farm as a place for visitors to experience. Ms. Tranchita and her daughter offer workshops as well as classes especially or kids. The farm is not large, but the land has been in the family for generations. Ms. Tranchita says that if the expanded power lines come to pass, it will wipe her off the map, and she will lose her home, business and retirement. It won’t be possible, she indicates, to raise animals under the kind of high-voltage power lines that are proposed.
A fourth generation farmer, member of the Livingston Town Board and representative of the Columbia County Farm Bureau, Mr. Yandik says his family already has given up land to utility companies by eminent domain. He doesn’t want to do it again or to suffer with additional massive towers and high-voltage lines being run through his agricultural lands. He believes New York and the governor should be a leader on this issue rather than using 90-year-old technology. For starters, he points out that Europe and other states can underground power lines and New York should be able to as well. The 180-acre farm produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and offers a road stand with pies, baked goods, jams and many more farm-fresh products.