By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The National Park Service has given two utilities permission to put power lines through scenic recreation areas popular with Philadelphia area residents, including the Delaware Water Gap. The park service will get $56-million worth of improvements in exchange.

The power line, supported by 200 foot high towers, will cut through 4.5 miles of the Water Gap, the closest place to Philadelphia where visitors can enjoy a large stretch of forested national park land.

Environmentalists have been fighting the project for five years and Cinda Waldbuesser of the National Parks Conservation Association says they’re disappointed with the approval.

“It’s going to fragment the forests, its habitats and change the character of some of the most visited national park units in the country.”

National Park Service spokesman David Barna says the decision was a trade-off.

“We believe the good projects that we will be able to get out of the $56-million mitigation fund is a better public good than blocking this transmission line.”

The line is a joint project of PP&L and PSE&G. They estimate it will cost $1.2-billion and be complete in 2015.