Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"A Devastating Blow to Northern Pass" - Op Ed

Coös County Democrat (July 29, 2015)
Littleton Courier (July 29, 2015)
Plymouth Record Enterprise (July 30, 2015)

Editorial Opinion

 A devastating blow to Northern Pass

 On July 21, a major victory was won for those who oppose Northern Pass. The five-year process leading to the project’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) ended wih the U.S. Department of Energy releasing the long awaited document. The department concluded that the proposal for nearly 180 miles of huge electricity towers would damage our tourist economy and the great views that make life in the North Country a continuous treat.

The DEIS suggested several alternative routes for Northern Pass, the PSNH/Eversource proposal to bring HydroQuebec power to the New England grid using, almost exclusively, mammoth transmission towers through New Hampshire. Because of the dreadful visual impact from the tall towers, many alternatives in the DEIS call for underground lines, as so many people from Northern New Hampshire have suggested for years. We were speaking, but Northern Pass was not listening.

 Northern Pass issued statements about the DEIS. Totally avoiding how the DEIS hurts the project’s momentum, the statements focus on the need for additional energy and how the Northern Pass permitting process will continue. Interestingly, Northern Pass credits the input received from citizens about the project. Nowhere has Northern Pass acknowledged the major strategic error in its continuing reluctance to consider what has clearly become the only option that stands any chance of winning the support of the North Country — burying the lines.

Noting the energy crisis New England faces, recent statements from Northern Pass imply our state would benefit from the extra supply and the subsequent lower costs. Yet, the project’s benefit to New Hampshire’s electricity consumers has never been clear. As far as lowering our high power rates, Northern Pass meekly states, "We continue to believe that Northern Pass is an important part of the answer." They just cannot seem to accept that the fat cats in two countries trying to push Northern Pass on us never bothered to ask whether residents of our region love our precious land, trees, and views. Generations of people here know the answer, and we do not need a corporate monstrosity looking to spoil our state while lecturing us on the need for new energy sources.

The DEIS notes how burying the lines would double the cost to build Northern Pass, but would also double the number of construction jobs compared to above ground lines. How Northern Pass responds to that fact will be interesting to see. Also, the DEIS found, towns most affected by the proposed overhead lines would gain the least amount of property tax revenue from the Northern Pass infrastructure that would weave its way through towns from Pittsburg south.

 Many people deserve credit for ensuring the DEIS captured the brutal devastation Northern Pass would bring to our region. Landowners turned away millions by refusing to sell their land to Northern Pass, devoted residents took many trips to Concord and elsewhere to find out more and have their voices heard, and people made the orange protest color central to their wardrobe.

 The final battle has not been won, but the above ground towers cannot realistically happen because of the big slap to the face the U.S. Department of Energy delivered to Eversource and HydroQuebec last week. This major victory belongs to us all. Thanks and congratulations to those who made such a triumph possible

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Northern Pass's Visual Impacts on 47 NH Towns

Zone of Visual Influence (ZVI) Maps

The Department of Energy (DOE) and New Hampshire Department of Historical Resources (NHDHR) are conducting a mandated federal Section 106 review of Northern Pass's impacts on historical resources.

Until recently, this review has not been available to the general public. On June 17, 2015, Governor Hassan requested that DOE post review documents, as well as NHDHR's preliminary comments, on the Northern Pass Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) site as soon as possible. NHDHR concurred that the public's interest demanded it. A redacted version is now available online to the public as "NH Division of Historical Resources – Project Area Form Review."

This redacted version includes "Sketch Maps" for the Section 106 review prepared by TJ Boyle, a DOE subcontractor for the EIS. The base "Sketch Maps" show the "zones of visual influence" within the "area of potential effect" (APE) along the full 187-mile length of the proposed project.

The general public may now view this viewshed analysis online; links follow at the end of this blog.

The viewshed analysis is designed for the Section 106 assessment of impacts on historical resources, not for landowners who wish to assess visual impacts on their own properties. Nevertheless, the maps serve as a limited preview of what landowners can expect from Northern Pass as currently proposed.

Another such preview is offered in the Appalachian Mountain Club's earlier visual impact assessment and flyover video. This assessment is based upon 2012 tower heights and will be updated. (See "Methodology" in the VIA for a discussion of data used to compose the videos. Links to the eleven fly over videos are included below to correspond to the Section 106 Sketch Maps.)

For the 106 review, DOE and NHDHR have decided to consider one mile either side of the center of the proposed transmission line as the APE.* (The 2012 AMC fly over videos show a wider APE.)

The zones are color coded to represent how many towers would be visible from a given location within the APE. White: 0 towers. Yellow: 1 to 5 towers. Green: 6-10 towers. Orange: 11-20 towers. Red: 21-40 towers. Burgundy: over 41 towers.

Conditions are leaf-on.

“Surface” viewsheds for all but the immediate APE include the screening effects of objects over 7 ft (2.1 m) in height (leaf-on tree conditions, buildings, etc.). Thus, should a currently forested area be cleared or drop its leaves, its viewshed could be impacted.

Following is an example of visual impacts within the APE along Streeter Pond Road in Sugar Hill. The shaded area outlined in black represents the APE. Impacts within the APE range from 0-5 towers (white, yellow) through 40+ towers (burgundy) in leaf-on conditions. Visual impacts beyond the 1-mile APE certainly exist in given locations, but they are not shown on these maps.

Streeter Pond Road, Sugar Hill (detail from Sketch Map G, White Mountains PAF)

As well as the 31 host communities, within the one-mile APE are located an additional 16 towns that would be visually impacted: Andover, Boscawan, Colebrook, Dix's Grant, Epsom, Errol, Franconia, Jefferson, Landaff, Lisbon, Littleton, Nottingham, Plymouth, Salisbury, Sanbornton, Wentworth's Location.

For instance, on the map above, visual impacts extend into a "non-host" town, Franconia, on the east side of I-93 near the right-center of the map.

To see visual impacts on individual towns within the one-mile APE, click on the relevant Project Area Form link below and scroll down the Sketch Maps until you find your town, which may be represented on more than one map. Civic boundaries are not shown on these maps. You will need to know street and road names or other identifying features.

For a fuller preliminary idea of visual impacts, view both the specific Section 106 Sketch Map for your area plus the corresponding AMC fly over video.

Sect. 106 White Mountains Project Area Form. Sketch Maps for Bethlehem, Campton, Dalton, Easton, Franconia, Landaff, Lincoln, Lisbon, Sugar Hill, Thornton, Whitefield, Woodstock, (Littleton). Click here.

(Corresponding AMC fly over videos for Whitefield - Dalton - Lancaster, Sugar Hill - Bethlehem, Woodstock - Lincoln - Easton, Campton - Thornton.)

Sect. 106 Great North Woods Project Area Form. Sketch Maps for Pittsburg, Clarksville, Stewartstown, Dixville, Dix’s Grant, Colebrook, Wentworth’s Location, Errol, Millsfield, Dummer, Stark, Northumberland, Lancaster, (Jefferson). Click here.

(Corresponding AMC fly over videos for Dixsville - Stewartston - Clarksville - Pittsburg, Dummer - Millsfield, Northumberland - Stark.)

Sect. 106 Lakes Region Project Area Form. Sketch Maps for Plymouth, Holderness, Ashland, Bridgewater, New Hampton, Bristol, Sanbornton, Hill, Franklin, Andover, Northfield, Salisbury. Click here.

(Corresponding AMC fly over videos for Bristol - Bridgewater - New Hampton - Ashland - Holderness, Northfield - Franklin - Hill - New Hampton.)

Sect. 106 Merrimack Valley Project Area Form. Sketch Maps for Canterbury, Boscawen, Concord, Epsom, Pembroke, Allenstown, Nottingham, Deerfield. Click here.

(Corresponding AMC fly over videos for Concord - Canterbury, Deerfield - Allenstown - Pembroke.)

All PAF Sketch Maps and other Section 106-related materials linked to in this blog post are located on the  public "Consultations - Section 106" page, the public "Project Library Documents" page, or the public "Project Library Comments" page of the DOE's Northern Pass EIS site.


*NHDHR concurred with DOE's decision to limit the APE to 1 mile, but notes that it will adjust the APE if necessary to consider impacts on historical properties outside this area. (Northern Pass's lawyer, Maryanne Sullivan, Hogan Lovells, has commented on the APE here.) On June 19, 2015, the Forest Society and other stakeholders expressed dismay to NHDCR Commissioner Van McLeod over NHDHR's concurrence with the base 1-mile APE.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Standing Room Only for Northern Pass Opposition Information Meeting (June 7, 2015, Easton NH)

Easton Town Hall, Easton NH
(click photos to enlarge)

An audio transcript of the first hour of the meeting, with links to supporting written materials, is available at Brian Tilton's Northern Pass page.

News reports and photos:

Robert Blechl, "Northern Pass: Opponents Encouraged to Become Intervenors" (Caledonian Record, June 9).

Darin Wipperman, "Northern Pass Opponents Meet in Easton" (Littleton Courier, June 10).

Photos posted by Representative Leon Rideout (Coos -7) are here.
A capacity audience of approximately 130 people filled the Easton Town Hall to prepare for the next phase.


(Left) Will Abbott, Forest Society: "Put on your to-do list to write public comments to the DOE in response to the Draft EIS."
(Right) Jim Dannis, REAL: "If you intervene [at the SEC], you are at the table, just like Northern Pass is at the table.”

Bob Baker, REAL: "You've been so effective that Northern Pass has had to resort to spending an inordinate amount of capital on experts and consultants to help them create and sell the idea that the people of New Hampshire support them."
Nancy Martland, STOP: "Burying high voltage direct current transmission lines in New England is a practical solution to concerns about overhead lines."
Ken Kimball, AMC: "What is at risk here is extremely important relative to what the State of New Hampshire will look like in the near future."