Appalachian Mountain Club counters Northern Pass with new route video

Last modified: 10/30/2013 8:44:54 AM
Northern Pass officials say the most common question they get from landowners about their proposed 187-mile hydropower line from Canada to Deerfield is this: What will the towers and power lines look like from my house?

Northern Pass released maps detailing some of that information in July, but the company isn’t the only one trying to answer the question.

Earlier this month, the Appalachian Mountain Club released a series of “fly-over” videos that attempts to estimate how many towers someone would see if they stood within a half-mile on either side of the proposed route. The opening slide of the first video gives away the AMC’s position on Northern Pass: “The Visual Degradation of New Hampshire’s Landscape.”

As viewers “fly” over the proposed route, beginning in Deerfield and going north to the Canadian border, they see color-coded terrain that shows where one to 20 towers would be visible and where more than 20 towers would be visible. The video also indicates where no towers would be visible because they’d be hidden behind trees.

In addition, viewers see where commercial and residential areas along the route would be exposed to towers, said Ken Kimball, director of research for the AMC.

The videos – one depicting the entire route as well as separate videos of 11 selected communities – are not interactive and do not show enough streets or landmarks to allow a viewer to locate a specific address along the route. But the videos can be stopped so viewers can get a sense of what size towers are planned for their community.

The AMC relied on project information Northern Pass has published on its website.

Kimball said he hopes viewers will compare the AMC videos to Northern Pass’s newspaper advertisements for the project.

“Every (advertisement) is of a New Hampshire bucolic scene with a little kid standing there looking over a landscape, and there isn’t one tower,” Miller said. “There is a reason their ads don’t show towers. They are not very picturesque.”

Northern Pass officials released their own visual simulations in July that allow visitors using their website to call up detailed aerial maps of specific neighborhoods along the proposed route. Those images show the height of the towers that would be erected along the route.

For example, viewers can see that where the Northern Pass line would cross Sanborn Road in Concord, the three nearest towers would range from 95 feet tall to 105 feet tall. But neither Northern Pass’s nor AMC’s visual simulations give landowners a personalized view of the project from their property.

Both organizations have criticized the other’s attempts to produce those visual simulations.

On Friday, Northern Pass, through its website, criticized the AMC video, saying it failed to include important specifics such as how much of a tower would be visible and what kind of tower would be seen.

“Rather than provide this important data and analysis, the AMC video instead relies on generalities and overly broad assertions that are not supported by facts and ignore the methodologies commonly employed by visual experts,” read the website blog post.

Kimball disputed that in an interview Sunday. He said the AMC used a mapping method that Northern Pass’s own expert has used for other projects. Kimball said Northern Pass should have used its fly-over video approach before it released its aerial maps in July.

Doing so, Kimball said, would have allowed Northern Pass to identify where towers would be most visible along the route. He said Northern Pass instead chose locations for its maps with a less credible method.

“I think for a (proposed line) that is 187 miles long, I think they short-changed the public,” Kimball said.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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