Saturday, July 29, 2017

SEC Site Visit to Franconia: Disappointing (7/28/2017)

Franconia Site Visit: NHSEC Arrives Early, Disappoints Northern Pass Opponents

NHSEC Wraps Up Two Days Of North Country Site Visits Friday

Robert Blechl
Caledonian Record 
July 29, 2017

Hoping to make a statement to the committee that will decide if Northern Pass will be approved, dozens of orange-clad opponents were disappointed Friday after members of the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee made their site visit more than an hour earlier than scheduled. (Photo by Robert Blechl)

FRANCONIA — Seeing it as an opportunity when they could almost be face to face, opponents of Northern Pass were hoping to make a statement to members of the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee, which made a site visit Friday afternoon.

Instead, NHSEC members arrived more than an hour before their scheduled visit in Franconia and were gone after about 10 minutes, before virtually all of the several dozen opponents, wearing orange and some holding “No To Northern Pass” signs, arrived.

“We were going to be polite,” said Lisa Cutler, of Easton, who, with her husband, Ned, chair of the Easton selectboard, arrived a half hour before the estimated 2:15 p.m. visit by the NHSEC.

The committee is visiting portions along the Northern Pass route to study the impact the proposed transmission line would have.

As project opponents trickled into downtown, they were disappointed to learn of the early arrival. Some voiced suspicions it was a deliberate attempt by the NHSEC to avoid area residents turning out in Franconia, which has been a hotbed of Northern Pass opposition.

“To me, this is a public process and the public should see what they’re doing,” said Nancy Martland, of Sugar Hill.

The NHSEC should have visited to see not only what would physically be impacted by the project, but to see the people who would be impacted, said Kevin Johnson, owner of the Gale River Motel in Franconia.

“They avoided it by getting here an hour earlier,” he said. “It makes me question the objectivity of the committee and if they are interested in really weighing the pros and cons … People took time out of their day to come here.”

Two of them were Bob Sherburn and his daughter, Alyssa Sherburn, who run the Pinestead Farm Lodge, in Franconia, which has been in the family for generations.

“This is unfair,” said Bob Sherburn.

The Northern Pass line would run under Route 116, right in front of the main Pinestead farmhouse that regularly welcomes guests, said Alyssa Sherburn.

“This would really disrupt business,” he said.

Opponents favor burial, but many want a fully buried line, along Interstate 93, and not through downtown Franconia and Easton, where they say businesses would be hurt through two seasons of construction and ripped up roads, which they contend would also negatively impact residential properties.

The NHSEC is the entity that will decide whether or not to issue Northern Pass a certificate of site and facility, which is needed for the estimated $1.6 billion, 1,090-megawatt-capacity, 192-mile transmission line to advance. The NHSEC could make its decision later this year.

As proposed, the line would be all overhead except for 7 1/2 miles of underground line in Coos County and 52 miles underground from Bethlehem to Bridgewater.

Because they were on the road Friday, NHSEC administrator Pam Monroe and committee members were unavailable for comment and it was undetermined why the committee showed up more than an hour before their scheduled time in Franconia.
On Thursday, NHSEC members arrived in Coos County for site visits in upper Coos that included Pittsburg, where the line would cross the international border, and Clarksville.

On Friday, after visiting Stark and Weeks State Park in Lancaster, which would have views of overhead towers, they visited Bethlehem and Franconia, which, along with Easton and Sugar Hill, would have buried line along state highways.

According Kenneth Bowes, engineer for Eversource Energy, the parent company of Northern Pass, the traffic control at Routes 18 and 116, where the line would make a sharp right and cross under the Gale River, “is probably the more complicated of any of the locations along the route …”

At the moment, the big legal challenge that appears to be shaping up against Northern Pass in the North Country is the project’s use of local roads.

Last week, the Easton Board of Selectmen wrote Victoria Sheehan, commissioner of the N.H. Department of Transportation, to request that the NHDOT enforce N.H. RSA 228:25, the statute on the reestablishment of highway boundaries.

The RSA states whenever it is the opinion of the NHDOT commissioner that the boundary lines, limits, or locations of any highways become lost, uncertain, or doubtful, the commissioner can reestablish them the same as they were originally established.

“At issue here is a private project proposing to use public roads for a highly invasive project,” the Easton selectmen said to Sheehan. “Its size and length are unprecedented in New Hampshire and the majority of road abutters do not know what the road width is, and therefore are unable to defend their property rights, when they even know that there is an issue of unknown width.”

The Easton board members said many people assume that when the state took over the roads, it set a standard right-of-way width, but that is untrue.

“Abutters and travelers have a right to a clear determination of road widths, yet what is being proposed is a permit of a project which has not provided adequate proof of ROW widths,” wrote the selectmen. “Even with all the relevant information in hand, some roads on the proposed route were laid out without the width of the road being specified, so there is inescapable uncertainty about the road boundaries.”


See the companion piece to this post here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Route 116 (Franconia - Easton) Says NO to Northern Pass (7/28/2017)

Route 116 (Franconia - Easton) Says NO to Northern Pass

Site Evaluation Committee Site Visit, July 28, 2017

Read the companion piece to this post here.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Franconia area residents take local concerns about Northern Pass to Concord (July 20, 2017)

Franconia area residents take local concerns about Northern Pass to Concord

SEC Public Statement Hearing, Concord, July 20, 2017

Patricia Kellogg displays "New Hampshire's Heritage" at the
SEC Public Hearing in Concord, July 20, 2017

Along with over thirty other New Hampshire citizens and a delegation from the Pessamit Innu First Nation in Quebec, six Franconia area residents traveled to Concord on July 20 to voice their concerns about the proposed Northern Pass project to the Site Evaluation Committee, which is currently deciding whether or not to permit the 192-mile transmission line. This was the third hearing held in the last month for non-intervenors to state their views to the SEC.

Grouped into two parties, two dozen residents of Bethlehem, Franconia, Easton, and Plymouth who live along the proposed underground route were granted pro se intervenor status in 2016, and representatives of these two groups have been participating in the adjudicative process for the last 18 months. In the White Mountains area, the towns of Littleton, Bethlehem, Franconia, Sugar Hill, Easton, Plymouth, and Ashland have retained counsel to represent them as intervenors, with County Attorney Lara Saffo representing the Grafton County Commissioners.

SEC Chair Martin Honigberg noted that the July 20th session was the sixteenth public hearing that the SEC has held on this project and that the nearly 1900 written comments submitted to date and posted on the SEC’s website are running 12 to 1 against the project as proposed.

In the July 20th hearing, Franconia area speakers stressed heritage – both what we have inherited and what we must strive to pass on to future generations. As a third generation family owner of Polly’s Pancake Parlor, which opened in 1938, Katherine Aldrich Cote remarked that the Franconia area has been known as “a destination for tourists escaping the heat, noise, and traffic of cities since the late 1800’s.” She noted that Polly’s has kept meticulous attendance records and knows how past road construction and other events along Route 18/116 in Franconia, the proposed site of the construction project to install the Northern Pass cable, have negatively affected business. Over two-thirds of Polly’s guests travel that route to reach Sugar Hill. Project sponsors estimate a minimum of two construction years – April to November – to install the underground cable, which, Cote said, collides with the annual peak period of Polly’s visitors. In 2016, Polly’s served 71, 031 of its 93, 500 customers between April and October.

Cote presented the SEC with 75 letters voicing similar concerns about the impacts of underground construction on Franconia area businesses and implored the committee “to consider the negative long-term effects of this project on our small towns and businesses. Tourist will avoid the area, find other destinations to visit, and may not return for many years, if at all.”

Patricia Kellogg, Littleton, displayed a large photo entitled “New Hampshire’s Heritage.” It reproduces a well-known nineteenth century painting of Franconia Notch on which her husband, a licensed surveyor, has drawn in a simulation of Northern Pass’s towers and wires to underscore the point that tourists do not visit the Franconia area to experience major infrastructure projects. She also implored the SEC to preserve “the New Hampshire advantage,” our pristine scenic heritage, for future generations to enjoy.

Dorothy McPhaul, Sugar Hill, and Brenda Shannon Adam, Easton, coordinated their statements to contrast the proposed underground routes of Northern Pass and of a rival project in Vermont, the New England Clean Power Link, which is now fully permitted. McPhaul drove the 57-mile overland portion of the NECPL route from Benson to Ludlow, Vt. on July 10 and observed that the differences between it and Northern Pass’s underground plans are “stunning.” The Vermont project, sited on four-lane highways and back roads that two towns have approved, will bypass all municipal centers, allowing them to continue business as usual. “NECPL is done with intensive planning by experts who care about the people as well as the finished product,” McPhaul said. “Northern Pass is a jumbled up mess of partially thought out plans, partially conducted studies, outdated maps and data, a staff of puppets, a reliance on its attorneys and contacts to make exceptions, grant waivers, ignore deficiencies, fool the public, lie if need be, and with plans ‘made as you go’ without sufficient knowledge and research,” she charged.

Adam drove Northern Pass’s proposed 52-mile underground route from Bethlehem to Bridgewater on July 2, the day after flash flooding swept through Grafton County, wondering “if the narrow ancient corduroy roads would disintegrate and swallow me up in an underground river like the videos I watched of 25A in nearby Orford.” How will these fragile roads hold up, she asked the SEC, when Northern Pass increases the traffic by 120% with heavy construction vehicles? As a further insult, Adam remarked, “the route cuts through the heart of three significant economic centers - Franconia, North Woodstock, Plymouth.”

Susan Ford, Easton, reminded the SEC that small towns in the North Country’s mountainous terrain have a limited number of roads. Downtown Concord was recently torn up for two years during a construction project to enhance the business district, but Ford knew she could avoid Main Street construction by traveling on Storrs Street, State Street or Green Street, and she could walk on sidewalks to Main Street businesses. “There is only one almost parallel road to Rt. 116 in Franconia and that’s five miles away. We can’t go around the block – there are no blocks,” Ford said. As a former Representative, Ford also reminded the SEC that the New Hampshire Legislature has reconfigured the siting process to include a “public interest” standard. The public interest is best served, Ford concluded, by moving the Northern Pass project to I-93.

The protracted length of the project and the intense opposition it has generated since 2010 were underscored by Melissa Elander, also of Easton. She presented the SEC with six cartons holding 20,000 petitions – “20, 000 voices” - opposing the project, 5,000 of which are directly addressed to the SEC and urge burial on I-93.

You may still sign the petition to the SEC; go to the website and search for “Northern Pass.” The SEC also continues to accept written public comments, which should be addressed and emailed to Pamela G. Monroe, SEC Administrator at Franconia area business owners who wish to add their letters to the existing group of 75 may send them to Please address these letters to the SEC and they will be forwarded as part of the business group.

Peter Martin rolls in boxes of petitions, signed by 20,000 opponents,
that the Martins and Melissa Elander have collected since 2010.

Susan Schibanoff

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Routes 3, 18, and 112 Damaged by Flash Flooding, July 1, 2017

(For photos of Easton's Route 116, click here.)

Severe Thunderstorm Warning, July 1, 2017

The following photos of Routes 3 (Thornton), 18 (Sugar Hill), and 112 (Woodstock) were taken on July 3-4, 2017

Rte. 3

Rte. 3

Rte. 112

Rte. 112

Rte. 112

Rte. 18

Easton's Route 116 Damaged by Flash Flooding, July 1, 2017

(For photos of Routes 3, 18, and 112, click here)

NH DOT Commissioner Sheehan Tours Storm-Damaged 

Rte. 116, Easton

(Posted on NH DOT's Facebook page, July 4, 2017.)

The following photos were taken in various locations on Rte. 116 
in Easton, July 1-5, 2017