Friday, June 17, 2011

The Biggest Land Grab in New Hampshire History

On its new website uploaded late this Friday afternoon, Northern Pass reveals what would be the biggest land grab in New Hampshire history. From Deerfield to Pittsburg, private property would have to be taken for a project with no public need or justification.

Of the 31 towns and cities on the proposed route, 21 would see the taking of land by eminent domain either to create a new right of way or to "expand" an existing right of way (ROW). Eight towns would be scarred with entirely new ROWs; thirteen towns would have existing ROWs "expanded" beyond current widths to accommodate the proposed HVDC line, which would be added alongside one or two HVAC lines. ("Expanded" is NP's term.)

In reality, both situations represent new ROWs. The difference between them is simply whether the new ROW would be created to abut an existing ROW or not. It doesn't matter whether 10', 25', 50' or 250' is taken if your house or land is seized by eminent domain. PSNH has no inherent right to "expand" their ROWs. The easement deeds do not contain blanket permission for PSNH to come back and take more land whenever it wants it. PSNH would have to condemn and take the additional private property by eminent domain.

For instance, PSNH states that over five miles of the seven mile ROW in Deerfield would have to be "expanded" by an unspecified amount. This information is oddly phrased to suggest that the "expansion" would somehow occur within the existing ROW. It would (could) not. The new ROW of unspecified width would run alongside the current ROW. It also implies that PSNH has the right to "expand" its ROW. It does not. PSNH would have to take private property to create a new ROW to abut their existing one.

Northern Pass website: "Community" page for Deerfield
 Northern Pass is proposing an eminent domain nightmare.

Further, the highest towers are proposed for two towns that host the White Mountain National Forest, the National Scenic Appalachian Trail (AT), and the lower part of Franconia Notch State Park: Lincoln and Easton. These mammoth towers will cross the AT, run close to South Kinsman, a popular hiking destination on the AMC's Four Thousand Footer list, and be visible from the I-93 gateway approach.

Northern Pass is proposing an outrage to federal and state scenic treasures.

Towns that would see private property seized by eminent domain to create new ROWs of unspecified widths that do not abut current ROWs: Chichester, Clarksville, Colebrook, Columbia, Northumberland, Pittsburg, Stewartstown, Stratford.

(Clarksville, Colebrook, Columbia, Pittsburg, Stewartstown, and Stratford carry the note that "this route is not final; project representatives are working with landowners and town officials to reevaluate certain segments of the preferred route, and to explore whether there might be other feasible routing options—particularly in the North Country—that could achieve broader community support." This is the so-called Plan B through the large land holdings in eastern Coos County that NP has unsuccessfully been trying to negotiate for months.)

Towns that would see private property seized by eminent domain to create new ROWs of unspecified widths that do abut current ROWs: Allenstown, Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Campton, Canterbury, Concord, Deerfield, Franklin, Hill, New Hampton, Northfield, Pembroke, Woodstock.

In all, of the 180 mile proposed route, 73 miles (40%) would see new ROWs.

For the "most common tower height" in each town, whatever that may mean, and for details about the lengths (but not the widths) of abutting and non-abutting new ROWs, see:

PSNH has repeatedly said that it would use eminent domain only rarely and as a last resort for this project. How does that square with the facts that NP has just announced: 21 towns and cities in NH would see private property seized by eminent domain for new abutting and non-abutting ROWs? How does PSNH's reassurance fit with the fact that it plans to take 73 miles of new ROWs of unspecified widths? How many hundreds of NH property owners will be deprived of their basic rights in order to support a private utility developer who said just two weeks earlier that HB 648 legislation was not necessary to protect them from such land seizure?