PORTLAND (WGME) -- Central Maine Power’s controversial corridor got a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers this week, which leaders say will allow construction to start as early as next month.
"The Army Corps permit is the last major permit that we need, actually, to begin construction, so we're extremely excited now," Thorn Dickinson from Avangrid, CMP's parent company, said.
The New England Clean Energy Connect involves a 145-mile transmission line that would carry hydropower through Maine from Quebec to Massachusetts.
"We're out there hiring Mainers to work on the project," Dickinson said. "We'll need about 300 people for this first phase of the project."
He said crews will start developing access roads and clearing the new, 53-mile stretch of corridor as soon as early December. Dickinson said it's expected to create 1,600 jobs over the entire construction.
But the development comes as lawsuits and appeals are still pending, along with a newly-launched referendum effort.
"CMP is trying to project that the corridor is now a done deal and that’s simply not true," Sandi Howard, who heads Say No to NECEC, said.
Howard said the group collected more than 23,000 signatures in a single day this week, in an effort to once again put the issue to voters.
"It's important for Mainers to know that there's something that they can do to push back against this project," Howard said.
The NECEC is also awaiting municipal approvals and a Presidential permit, which is needed for the project to cross the Canadian border.
When asked what will happen if the project falls through after construction begins, Dickinson says, "So far we've been very happy. Three years of very hard work with all the regulatory bodies to get approval. The opposition has had an opportunity in that proceeding to make their case. In the end, all the regulators have come to the same conclusion, that this is a project with good economic benefits that should move forward."
The permit from the Army Corps is currently being challenged in federal court. Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit last month, alleging the Army Corps failed to rigorously assess impacts of the project.