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DOE surveying Concord roadways along Northern Pass route

Environmental professionals with the U.S. Department of Energy have been in Concord this week collecting field data to use in the department’s study of alternatives to the Northern Pass transmission line project.

Several of the alternative routes for the project, outlined in a Department of Energy report in May, run through Concord along the roads being surveyed: south along Interstate 93, then east along Interstate 393 and toward Deerfield along Route 4. Three of the routes include a complete burial of the transmission line through Concord. One is an overhead power line.

DOE field work in Concord began Monday and may continue into next week, a city official said.

The surveying is for the DOE’s environmental impact study of the proposed 187-mile transmission line that would run from the Canadian border at Pittsburg to Deerfield. Based on that report, the department will decide whether to grant the Northern Pass project a presidential permit. The $1.4 billion project needs approval at both the federal level, because it crosses an international boundary, and the state level before it can become a reality.

The study will also evaluate several possible alternatives to the project, more than 20 of which the department outlined in a May report. Those options range from a complete burial of the transmission line through New Hampshire along highways and roads to an energy conservation plan that makes the project unnecessary.

As the project is currently proposed through Concord, Northern Pass would run 8.1 miles of overhead power lines along Public Service of New Hampshire’s existing rights-of-way, which mostly run parallel to the eastern side of I-93.

The project’s towers would stand nearly twice as tall as the existing ones, according to the Northern Pass website. Right now, towers in the PSNH rights-of-way in Concord are most commonly 43 feet. The towers needed to support Northern Pass’s transmission line in Concord would mostly stand between 80 and 100 feet tall.

The environmental consulting firms hired by the DOE – SE Group, Ecology & Environment and Lucinda Low Swartz – began collecting data along the southern part of Northern Pass’s proposed route in March 2013.

For the study, the contractors collect data that includes the location and types of wetlands and the cultural and visual resources. In April, the team collected data on raptors by conducting aerial surveys.

The DOE received a permit from the state’s Department of Transportation in May to gather data along 225 miles of I-93, New Hampshire Route 3 and other state and town roads for its study of alternatives. The DOE teams began work up north a few weeks ago, according to the state DOT. But the DOT is not aware of the specific schedule.

The DOE has been surveying PSNH rights-of-way, along Northern Pass’s proposed route, said PSNH spokesman Martin Murray. The company does not get notice about what field work they are doing and where.

Northern Pass Transmission pays for the study and has been receiving invoices on a regular basis, Murray said.

The DOE wouldn’t answer specific questions about the study and how many alternatives it is surveying. But a department spokesperson said the DOE will work with stakeholders and interested parties throughout the process.

“The department is committed to conducting a thorough environmental review of this proposed project, including detailed analysis of the range of alternatives in order to ensure the potential environmental impacts of the project are fully considered,” the spokesperson said.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

Unless and until you see the DOE study the most direct routes, which involve I-91 (Gov. Shumlin is willing), don't take any of this seriously. It's more pretend-regulation from Energy, which is controlled by what Northern Pass wants. What do you want to bet that all of a sudden, DOE and NPT will get religion about crossing wetlands and tell us that they couldn't possibly underground along I-93 because it would be too environmentally damaging? Meanwhile, they ignore the fact that the antique PSNH ROW couldn't be built where it is today because of the wetlands impacts. A river literally runs through much of the PSNH ROW in north country valleys.

The no pass proposal wants to criss cross I-93 like shoe laces after it's damaging route through the North Country, the Appalachian Trail, and the White Mountain National Forest. An underground route beside the highway is the most logical and sensible way. All the other projects currently proposed are using underground and modern, reliable, HVDC Light technology instead of ancient, dangerous and vulnerable overhead lines on massive towers. If underground is the law in CT, why should NH settle for less from a CT company that wants the power for CT?

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