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Pembroke selectmen speak against Northern Pass

Last modified: 10/25/2013 4:24:58 PM
Only about 6 miles of the 180-mile proposed Northern Pass project would pass through Pembroke.

But the town’s selectmen and a handful of residents only had one message for Northern Pass representatives who presented the project at this week’s board meeting.

“The consensus of the citizens that were there was, ‘No, thank you,’ ” Chairwoman Tina Courtemanche said.

Northern Pass spokesman Michael Skelton said the project engineers just want New England residents – including the 45 Pembroke landowners whose property would be in the direct path of the proposed hydropower line – to understand the facts.

“First and foremost, what we want them to take away is factual information,” Skelton said. “We often find that residents . . . have been badly misinformed about the project and are concerned about impacts that don’t actually exist.”

Tower height is among the major concerns for Pembroke residents, said Courtemanche, and she said information from this week’s meeting did not serve to calm that.

About 6.2 miles of Northern Pass would cut through Pembroke, and the towers along that line would range in height between 52 feet at the shortest and 135 feet at the tallest. The project details, including the height of each proposed tower, are broken down in a plan on the “In My Town” section of the Northern Pass website.

On average, the Pembroke towers would be 130 feet tall. The line would continue along an existing right of way through the town, where power lines currently average 75 feet in height.

Skelton said the treeline in Pembroke varies from 55 to 65 feet along that right of way.

So the towers could extend as high as 70 feet above the town’s trees, which Courtemanche said drew fire from landowners concerned about their property values.

“If you have a 130-foot tower in your backyard, you know that is definitely, they feel, going to lower their property value,” Courtemanche said.

While the towers vary in height across their path through Pembroke, Skelton said the project engineers are trying to design a level path for the hydropower line, one that accounts for dips and obstacles in the land.

“It’s really all driven by the topography of the right of way,” Skelton said.

The dozen or so residents gathered to protest the project at the selectmen’s meeting care about the local topography, Courtemanche said. They just don’t want to see Northern Pass become part of it.

“Some of them are landowners that are in the Pass, and some of them just don’t want to see the landscaping,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful New England town, to just destroy the view.”

Skelton, who was not at the selectmen’s meeting Monday, said an open house for Pembroke and Allenstown residents last week yielded more support for the project. In particular, he said some at the open house were curious about the tax benefits Northern Pass has promised for the towns it could dissect.

Northern Pass would mean an additional $530,000 in local property taxes for Pembroke, he said.

“It’s a very compelling story when you look at the energy benefits, the environmental benefits and the ecological benefits,” Skelton said. “We believe it’s a win-win, not only for the town of Pembroke, but the state of New Hampshire overall.”

Monday night’s presentation was the latest plug for Northern Pass in Pembroke, but Courtemanche said the town has been cold to the Northern Pass proposal since its beginning.

In 2011, a warrant article approved at town meeting registered the town’s “objection, opposition and commitment to stop the construction of any new portion of the high voltage transmission line that deviates from the alignment of the present existing right of ways.”

The article continued to say the town could not welcome the project because “such a huge scar constructed and erected through and above the town’s treasured residential and scenic private properties will cause inestimable damage to the orderly economic development of the town, and the health and well-being of its residents.”

Courtemanche has been following the project since its beginning stages and has attended other meetings in Pembroke and elsewhere for Northern Pass.

She’s heard the facts. And nothing has swayed her toward the project, she said with a dry laugh.

“Well, I think I heard what I thought I was going to hear,” Courtemanche said of this week’s meeting. “I don’t believe I heard anything new.”

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)


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