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Site Evaluation Committee views potential impact of Northern Pass on Concord 

  • Craig Wright (left) of the state Department of Environmental Services and Christopher Way of the Department of Resources and Economic Development refer to maps as they walk through a power line right of way with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee at McKenna’s Purchase in Concord on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and other interested parties visit a location on Fox Run in Concord that would be affected by the Northern Pass project on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and other interested parties visit a location on Fox Run in Concord on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, that would be affected by the Northern Pass project on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Tom and Cheryl Nickerson hold up sign opposing Northern Pass as a bus carrying New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee members arrives to tour a site in Concord on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Members of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and other interested parties compare photos simulating the impact of the Northern Pass project with the current view at McKenna’s Purchase in Concord on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and other interested parties visit locations that would be affected by the Northern Pass project in Concord on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and other interested parties visit a location at Alton Woods in Concord that would be affected by the Northern Pass project on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and other interested parties visit a location at Alton Woods in Concord that would be affected by the Northern Pass project on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Despite being moments away from Interstate 93, the Brookfield development has the look and feel of a quiet, rural neighborhood.

The community’s roads – Fox Run Road and Brookwood Drive – dead-end in two cul-de-sacs, and roughly 20 houses are nestled among thickets of trees. Even at noontime, the sound from the highway is minimal, as is the traffic on the roads.

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee found itself in the neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, comparing digital images showing what Northern Pass towers added to Eversource’s adjacent right of way would look like if the project were approved.

It was one of three communities the committee visited in Concord, part two of a two-day tour to view what kind of visual impact the project’s towers would have on the areas surrounding the proposed power line corridor. It’s the last time the SEC will have the chance to do so; on Friday, intervenors in the project will begin potentially 39 days of nonconsecutive testimony and cross-examination.

It’s one of the last steps in Northern Pass’s overall seven-year effort to bring 192 miles of transmission lines through New Hampshire to bring 1,000 megawatts of power to the New England grid. Eversource said a decision could be made by March next year – and if approved, construction would soon follow.

For some longtime Concord residents, the thought of the towers threatens not just their backyard view, but a way of life they said attracted them to the city in the first place.

“We knew when we bought the house that there were power lines, but we didn’t know they would be doubling in size,” said Cheryl Nickerson of Brookwood Drive. She and her husband, Tom Nickerson, waited for the committee to arrive on their street, holding “Stop the Northern Pass” signs in a familiar orange.

“Of course we care about what it’s going to look like,” she said.

Tom Nickerson added: “Our view right now is mostly trees, which is fine with us. You can’t even see the power lines, unless it’s winter.”

The Nickersons said they differ slightly in opinion on Northern Pass; Tom said he’d be more amenable to the project if the lines were buried, while Cheryl is outright against the project. But both agreed that the project could have a lasting impact on their home.

“We’re concerned about property values, sure,” Cheryl Nickerson said. The couple has lived in the neighborhood for 21 years; eventually, they wish to downsize and move.

“If we wanted to look at metal and steel, we’d live in downtown,” she said.

Across town, representatives of condominium company McKenna’s Purchase were also wary of the towers popping up in their backyard. Stephen Judge said McKenna’s requested the committee tour their property, which members had never seen before, to see the impact firsthand.

“This is a quiet, affordable neighborhood,” Judge said. “The purpose of the view was to highlight our disagreement with the company (Eversource), that there will be an economic and aesthetic impact.” Judge declined to say what economic impact Northern Pass would have on McKenna’s. Images provided to the committee showed Eversource’s transmission lines would easily clear the roofs and be visible behind homes.

Would it be different if the lines were buried in Concord? Judge said it was his understanding that wasn’t an option.

“As is, the project will change the Heights,” he said. “There’s a whole environment back there – habitats and wildlife – that will be changed if the project’s approved.”

In Concord, Eversource’s right of way runs east of I-93, crosses Interstate 393 and passes through the Heights, over the Soucook River and into Pembroke before turning east.

The Concord city council has come out against the project as is, but said it would be supportive of Northern Pass if the lines would be buried in Concord.

That’s unlikely to occur, Eversource spokesman Martin Murray said; burial of the lines would add $1 billion to the project’s $1.6 billion price tag.

“Complete burial would not be appropriate, necessary, and not economically possible,” he said.

But Murray said Eversource has taken steps to make sure the project is an unobtrusive as possible. About 60 miles of lines will be buried, mostly in the White Mountains, thanks to public feedback, and towers will be in existing rights of ways.

He also said the towers at their highest will be smaller than the public thinks. The state’s Department of Transportation wanted towers over I-393 to be about 165 feet tall, in the event that future construction calls for cranes to be used in the area. Murray said Northern Pass construction experts testified Monday that the towers could safely be 115 feet high.

Hearings on Friday will likely begin with Les Otten, developer of the Balsams ski resort, Murray said.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ActualCAndrews.)