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Visual impact of towers here still unclear

Concord-area residents should keep an open mind about the controversial Northern Pass power line that Hydro Quebec and Northeast Utilities want to string from the state’s northern border to Deerfield. Despite scores of public meetings and information sessions like the one Northern Pass employees held in Concord on Wednesday, many questions remain unanswered.

Chief among them, for many, is what the visual impact of the new line and taller towers will be. Will neighbors be able to see it from their deck or picture window? What will the effect be? Though the route of the line and the height of each tower can be found on the company’s website,, that question can’t be answered. Absent such information, speculation about the impact of the line on property values or tourism remains just that, speculation.

The new line would be strung on the existing right-of-way that stretches from Hoit Road in the north to near the Shaw’s supermarket on D’Amante Drive. Will its impact on property values offset the estimated $629,000 the company says it will pay in Concord property taxes? Again, there’s no way to say. Much depends on a given property’s distance from a tower and the height of trees and other vegetation between viewer and tower. Viewshed impact assessments done by a contractor for Northern Pass and the Appalachian Mountain Club, an opponent of the project, differ dramatically. A presumably impartial assessment will be done by the federal Department of Energy, but it could arrive after most of the public has made up its mind.

Last spring, the city conservation commission unanimously voted to oppose the project, calling it of “questionable value.” The planning board called for burying the line as it passes through Concord. Those actions, we believe, were premature. The impending closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, proposals by natural gas producers to liquify and ship gas overseas, where it commands higher prices, and other factors are changing the regional energy picture. The Northern Pass proposal should be considered in that light.

Burying the power line is, as the company claims, economically impossible given current technology. A 2011 study by the Wisconsin Public Utilities Commission, which concerned the construction of a 345-kilovolt line akin to the one Northern Pass wants to install, estimated the cost of burying power lines to be 4 to 14 times the cost of overhead lines.

Burying low-voltage power lines, as is done in residential areas, is far less costly than burying high-voltage cables, which must be cooled, buried 6 to 8 feet below the surface and served by large underground vaults where splices occur. Burying 6 miles of line, as Northern Pass plans to do in northern New Hampshire, will cost $100 million. The cost would be higher per mile in more developed areas like Concord.

Much of the skepticism and opposition Northern Pass has encountered it brought on itself. It may indeed be customary, when new power lines are proposed, to wait until the process is well under way to provide sound visual impact information to the public. But that delay comes with a price. Last week, when Northern Pass representatives came to Concord, they should have been armed, at a minimum, with accurate visual impact information, mock views if you will, from sample sites along the lines route. Software already in use makes it possible to provide schematics, once fieldwork has been done, that depict what is visible from where. Absent that, Northern Pass could have fallen back on old technology and used helium balloons or flags on poles to portray the height of several proposed towers.

The existing line is sited so that its visual impact, for most Concord residents, is minimal. The visual impact of taller towers may be considerable, or negligible. In the absence of information from Northern Pass, it is not unreasonable for residents to fill in the worst blank on the page. The sooner that information can be provided, the better.

Legacy Comments12

It's only going to take one bad ice or wind storm, small plane, helicopter, hot air balloon, forest fire, wanna-be terrorist, or any of a long list of vulnerabilities to prove beyond any doubt that large scale transmission lines belong underground where they are safe and sound - not strung 150 feet in the air for 200 miles like a huge bug zapper with a junebug stuck in it or the tangled mess of twisted steel and cables on the ground when those 1200 MW come crashing down and fry whatever they land on - hopefully not someone's home. [Collateral damage, I guess] The Monitor and no. pass would like people to believe that underground is impractical or too expensive but that is a crock - don't believe it for a minute. They don't want you to know the truth about the underground projects going on right here in New England or they wouldn't be quoting a study from Wisconsin or lobbying the DOE not to even consider these regional underground projects in comparison to no. pass towers. If you like the NH you have now and you don't approve of foreign predatory developers trashing our state, you should take a minute to send a quick email to your Reps. and Senators and anyone else you think should know because no. pass is hoping people will just swallow their line of bull and do nothing so they can rake in the huge profits this proposal would make at NH's expense. Come to the DOE's "scoping hearings" and give them the thumbs down on towers and demand underground like the other states in New England have recognized as the smart choice.

Visual impact. The “Eagle” that sets atop the Capital dome is reported to be 118 feet above the ground. A typical building said to be ~11 feet in height for each floor. Therefore a 150 foot tower is about the height of a 13 story building. I don’t believe there is a single building in Concord that is 13 stories tall. Visualize these power lines running “over” the city of Concord and everything is under the lines.

Once again, the Concord Monitor shows it bias towards its friends at Northern Pass, despite the fact that the city itself opposes the project. The City Manager wrote a letter to the Department of Energy expressing the city's concerns over the impact of this project and stating its preference for burying the lines. Of course, the Concord Monitor accepts the $100 million dollar figure for burying 6 miles of line as gospel with no investigation of its own. This despite the fact that all of our neighboring states have utility corridors running along major highways, generating revenue for the states with minimal impact on communities. Speaking of revenue, I'd sure like some information on the $629,000 revenue figure that the Monitor reports - again with no verification. According to Mayor Bouley, the city is not anticipating ANY revenue from Northern Pass. Rather than standing up for the people of this city, the Monitor's subscribers, the paper is in bed with its advertiser. This is the height of hypocrisy, considering it past opinions of big business. Interesting how the Monitor acknowledges loss of tax revenue but expresses no concern whatsoever for the people whose property values will decline.

The last time no. pass attempted to provide a visual depiction of a proposed tower was on the front page of the Union Leader where they superimposed a "virtual" tower on a picture of a right of way with an existing tower for comparison. The figures they gave for tower heights didn't accurately reflect the relationship between the two towers being compared with the difference skewed in no. pass's favor in no small measure. They obviously don't want us to know the truth or they wouldn't be such a stranger to it. Everyone has "skin" in this game because if you aren't being affected directly by your proximity to this proposed line, you will be paying more to make up for those who are. Many are also unaware of the special rules that allow utilities to depreciate these lines - far and above normal business depreciation rates - so before long, local tax bases will shrivel leaving us to pay even more while they are busy counting their billions. Don't fall for their line[s] of baloney. We know who will really benefit and who is going to pay. Tell them to bury it all the way or we'll find someone who will - or build a power plant in CT where they need the power and towers like these are illegal.

If there are still any unanswered questions after all this time, isn't it clear that no. pass doesn't want to provide those answers? They know how much outrage there would be if the public ever found out and could realistically visualize the true scope of the planned industrialization sure to have major negative impacts to property values and quality of life. It's interesting that the Monitor feels compelled to support and attempt to make excuses for a proposal that so much of NH is so against for such obvious reasons. The editors are even playing fast and loose with their quoting of a Wisconsin PUC study as if it were the last word in the "underground" story. There are two projects currently being constructed using modern underground transmission methods right here in New England. They both involve the transmission of many megawatts of power, not just a little 345kv line that bears no resemblance to what no. pass has in mind for us. Obviously, the technology already exists - and has for years. Companies have found that it is not only feasible but profitable to bury large scale transmission lines like this right here in New England so to assert otherwise is "less than honest" and readers deserve better information.

Dear Editor: Forgive me for questioning your opinions, but, deep down don't you think that Northern Pass's failure to produce meaningful visual impact information and simulations is intentional? Is it the individual property owner's burden to ignore the very real visual/environmental threat of two transmission lines with shiny steel structures rising 100+ feet in the air over their homes and properties as compared to the existing single transmission line carried by wooden poles 40-50 feet off the ground? Contrary to your editorial view, the jury is not still out on visual impact. That impact will be horrible and anyone with a third grade knowledge of mathematics knows that twice as many high voltage transmission lines that are twice as high would be devastating to the neighborhood and the countryside--from Dummer to Deerfield, including the White Mountain Nation Forest and Concord. As for your comments on the cost and difficulty of burying HVDC cable, I see that you have been studying that issue using decades old literature. Research "HVDC light" underground technology. It is the centerpiece for underground transmission line projects currently being developed in Vermont, New York and Maine. If the transmission line is needed, HVDC light is affordable--but revenue would have to be shared with the owners of the rights of way used. Goodness sake that might be the State of NH! If the transmission line is simply "nice to have" for a foreign government and the shareholders of a Connecticut holding company, then our New Hampshire landscapes and environment should not be sacrificed

Anyone who has seen Landworks of Middlebury Vermont's painfully misleading visual simulations of the Northern Pass lines (aka "Find the Towers") knows that Northern Pass has not the least intention of giving anyone an accurate idea of how the towers will look. These images range from unrealistic towers apparently drawn in with grey pencil, to towers so far away and obscured by haze as to be practically invisible. Northern Pass won't provide accurate images because they know it would kill the project instantly. It is telling that the Monitor's suggestion of floating a helium balloon as an indicator of tower height was done by the opposition more than a year ago. Where was the Monitor then?

Bottom line, the visual impact will be UGLY. No surprise there.

""Will its impact on property values offset the estimated $629,000 the company says it will pay in Concord property taxes"" NP clearly states there will be a drop in property values so less property tax generated, their augment is NP will pay ~~$629K to the city in taxes to make it up. What about the people who lose value in their homes. Who will compensate them when they try to sell. NP will depreciate these lines over time and pay less in taxes. Property values will stay depressed as the towers are still there so the town will have to raise its tax base to make up the lost revenue. Everyone should think if they would buy property next to these 100 - 150ft towers. As time moves on and it becomes harder to sell these homes, property values continue to decline. When realtors do comps. in the "surrounding" areas these homes will be included, having an increased negative effect on surrounding property values even where the towers are not visible. People can argue their house should not be affected (not within view) but what buyer or bank says sure and pays over the comp price. The affected areas just get larger. But hey, NP will make more profit for their leaders and bonus time will be good. Many people feel that is the important thing - not the general public. Ever see $million dollar homes under these power lines???? Why is that.

A good description of what to expect Jim. I have never seen my property value determine how much taxes I will pay. I recently refinanced and my house was re-evaluated and it's worth less than it was 10 short years ago. My property taxes are still where the town town put them according to their value of my property. Northern pass isn't good for NH. It's good for the stockholders but not the ratepayers or the property affected by this boondoggle.

NP is good for all Americans as it is a national economic security issue the NIMBY visual purists need to check if their passports says American

It is irresponsible and unethical of the Monitor editors to advise readers to give Northern Pass yet another pass and trust them on yet another failure to provide accurate info and/or the truth about their project. It has been almost three years now since NH heard the first NP lie - that the project was not predicated on eminent domain. Read the amended application to the National Forest just posted on Friday and count the number of times that NP says it would have to cut corners and use bad practices because NH denied it the power of eminent domain. Why on earth should anyone trust Northern Pass after it has become abundantly clear that the entire project is founded on that lie? Wouldn't you think that if NP could demonstrate minimal visual impact, they would have? Wouldn't you think they'd have had "story pole" demos up and down the ROW by now if it were true? The editors seem to forget that the burden of proof is on NP, not on the public to give them chance after chance to tell the truth. The only time the public would ever learn the truth from Northern Pass is the day the cranes start erecting their towers over our homes. That's called the "final engineering" phase. Everything else would be "preliminary engineering" until that day - when it's too late. Don't take bad advice from the Concord Monitor. Go to the scoping meeting in the Grappone Center on Sept 23 and let your elected officials know what any fool can see on NP's maps right now. This project will harm both Concord and all of NH.

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