Power plan has local connection
By Tara Ballenger
Created 01/21/2011 - 00:00
Scope of impact depends on FAA
The Northern Pass project by Northeast Utilities and Hydro Quebec might require cutting as much as 28 miles of new right of way in the southern half of the state. How much - if any - hinges largely on the project getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to build the towers next to existing lines around Concord's airport, according to Northeast Utilities.
Officials and residents in Concord and neighboring towns are saying they aren't necessarily opposed to the project, which would bring 1,200 megawatts of electricity through 140 miles of high-voltage power lines from Canada to a converter station in Franklin, and then to Deerfield to be piped into the regional power grid. But those who are in the path of the proposed routes are voicing their concerns about clearing new rights of way to build them.
Worries about how transmission lines would affect property values, scenic views and the environment, echo sentiments heard in the North Country, where the proposal of 40 new miles of right of way has sparked significant protest.
"I'm not happy with it at all. I spent my life getting this chunk of land together, and it wasn't to give them a route to run their power lines though," said James Haggett of Pembroke.
Haggett and his wife, Linda, attended a selectmen's meeting in the town Monday. At the meeting, representatives from the project explained that if the FAA doesn't grant Northeast Utilities permission to build towers, which would range in height from 90 to 135 feet, near existing lines around Concord Municipal Airport, a swath of land just over 8 miles long and 150 feet wide may need to be cut through Concord, Pembroke and Chichester to avoid the airport.
"We're waiting for them to give us the determination so we can move forward," said Brian Bosse, project manager for the Northern Pass project, which submitted an application in late October.
Representatives for the project told people at the Pembroke meeting that they hope to hear back from the FAA in the coming weeks, said Martin Murray, spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire, which is owned by Northeast Utilities. He said his estimate is based on how long the FAA has taken to make decisions about obstructions near airports in the past.
"We're as eager as the residents to find out," said Murray, who added that Northeast Utilities prefers to use the existing right of way by the airport if it's possible. "But I can't tell you what they're going to do."
The lines in the current right of way around Concord - including the lines around the airport - vary in height from 48 to 88 feet, so the new towers, which would be built next to the old ones, may represent a considerable increase in height.
No one at the FAA could address the specifics of the project's application for approval, but a spokesperson said that if the plans involve building towers high enough and close enough to the runway, aircraft will have to alter angles or directions to land safely and the approval process will involve significant research as well as the input of several arms of the administration.
The eight miles of new right of way would cut through undeveloped private land in the Broken Ground area of Concord north of Route 393 in Concord, and in north Pembroke and south Chichester between Plausawa and Garvin Hills. It would cut through 54 separate land parcels, most of them residential, Murray said.
"It's going to be a massive scar across the entire face of that mountain, which is very visible from the west looking east," said Raymond D'Amante, referencing the impact to the hills. D'Amante is a Concord-based attorney who will represent several Penacook and Chichester residents in upcoming Department of Energy hearings about the project and other meetings.
"More important is the impact on the properties that will be taken as well as the hundreds of properties that will not be taken but will still have the towers in their yards or just beyond their yards. They are massive steel towers" that are well over twice as high as the normal wood power lines people are used to seeing in that area," he said, adding that several historic properties, including homesteads dating to the 1700s in Chichester, will be affected.
Read the remainder of the article and see the route map here.
Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, is a member of the No Northern Pass Coalition; to join the email list, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.