What's being built on Old Stratford Road in Shelton?

Work has started on a new electric substation off Old Stratford Road in Shelton, near Exit 12 off of Route 8.

The United Illuminating (UI) project is intended to provide electricity for a growing demand in the area, and to increase power reliability.

“It’s about managing for the growth that’s expected, and meeting that demand,” said Michael A. West Jr., UI communications director. “We obviously need to have infrastructure in place.”

The six-acre site has been cleared to make way for the Pootatuck Substation, which will cover about two acres — or one-third of the property. The facility’s estimated cost is $38 million.

It will consist of some towers, transformers and other equipment. One small existing building from the property’s previous industrial use, located away from existing roads, will remain.

Surrounded by a fence

The substation will be surrounded by a nine-foot-high fence, for reasons of public safety, security and aesthetics.

A major overhead transmission line now runs through the property, which has a legal address of 14 Old Stratford Road.

Vehicular access will be from an existing driveway entrance that connects to Pootatuck Place, a short road that branches off Old Stratford Road near the BP gas station and Hilton Garden Inn.

Will create small conservation area

The site borders the Far Mill River to the north, and as part of the approval UI will establish a conservation area along the river as well as a small parking area for the public to access the river.

The property previously was occupied by the Lord Corp., a manufacturer of O-rings and seals, but has been vacant for many years.

Construction should take until the fall of 2015. “These are big undertakings,” West said of the construction schedule.

State approval was received

The project required the approval of the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC), a state agency that supersedes local land-use boards.

The Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) did approve the landscaping plan in September 2013, designed to create a buffer from roads and nearby properties.

This will involve planting trees and shrubs from six to 10 feet high, including cedar, juniper, bayberry and inkberry.

“The city of Shelton considers the Route 8 interchange area as an important gateway into Shelton,” states the CSC approval, issued in March 2013.

“Although some of the substation equipment is large and impossible to screen from certain vantage points, UI is committed to establishing a landscape plan in consultation with the city that presents a positive image,” according to the CSC.

The CSC approval states that based on the site’s “past industrial use and its current status as a brownfield, its location adjacent to developed commercial properties, and the presence of a wooded buffer to the few residents in the area, the council finds the proposed site suitable for a substation.”

About 15,000 cubic yards of fill will be used to grade the site. Most of the substation will be within a FEMA-designated 500-year flood zone, and certain equipment will need to be situated one foot above that level.

The project will involve filling about one-fifth of an acre of wetlands.

Four substations now serve area

West said the substation’s location indicates economic growth is expected in the surrounding vicinity. “We look for areas where growth is coming, and look to expand to meet that growth,” he said.

The area now is served by four UI substations, including the nearby Trap Falls Substation on Armstrong Road in Shelton. All will remain in operation.

These substations serve what UI classifies as “the greater Shelton area,” which in addition to Shelton includes Ansonia, Derby, Trumbull and parts of Orange and Stratford. The Stratford border is not too far from the Pootatuck Substation being built.

Substations and other utility-owned electrical equipment are taxable entities, and UI now is Shelton’s third largest taxpayer.