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Appalachian Mountain Club, Forest Society take concerns over Northern Pass to council subcommittee

Last modified: 5/1/2015 6:03:38 PM
Representatives from the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests lobbied a city council subcommittee yesterday to oppose Northern Pass or encourage the transmission lines’ burial through Concord.

The four councilors on the Northern Pass committee have been meeting to study the effect of the proposed hydropower project in the city. A partnership between Eversource Energy and Hydro-Quebec, the proposed 187-mile route includes an 8-mile stretch through the northern and eastern parts of Concord.

Concord does not have the power to decide whether Northern Pass moves forward. The city, however, is an intervenor in the state permitting process for Northern Pass, meaning city officials can weigh in on the project and take legal action if warranted.

Will Abbott, vice president for policy and land management at the Forest Society, asked the council push for Eversource to bury the lines. Putting the lines underground is “a credible alternative” to the proposed route, he said.

“It would not only have the effect of eliminating the scar on the landscape,” Abbott said. “It would limit the impact on property values, on property rights that are negatively affected by the project as proposed.”

Susan Arnold, vice president for conservation for the Appalachian Mountain Club, said the majority of the 77 Northern Pass towers in Concord would be taller than 90 feet. The existing towers in the right of way are between 43 and 97 feet tall.

“Most of the current infrastructure is lower and below the tree canopy,” she said.

“We believe that there are some significant impacts here in the city of Concord.”

Some councilors, however, rebuked the two organizations for spreading an anti-Northern Pass video that includes doctored images of Concord. Those groups have partnered with the Conservation Media Group for a video campaign against the transmission lines, and the latest installment targets the capital city.

“It’s just very disappointing,” Ward 9 Councilor Candace Bouchard said. “I want to be able to trust all the information that I’m receiving.”

Ward 10 Councilor Dan St. Hilaire also said the video could give viewers the false impression that the city council has the authority to stop or change the Northern Pass proposal. At the end of the clip, the video states the Concord City Council will take a position on the project in the next 30 days, which is not accurate.

But Abbott said the purpose of the video was to inform Concord residents about the project. It cites an Appalachian Mountain Club study from 2012, which says Northern Pass would have a greater visual impact on Concord than any other community.

“Could it have been more artfully done? Certainly,” Abbott said. “Is it appropriate for outside advocates to suggest that their elected officials should be attentive to this? Absolutely.”

“You could have an influence on such a project,” he added, looking at the council members across the table.

The councilors also questioned project manager Bonnie Kurylo from Eversource, formerly Public Service of New Hampshire. Kurylo told the council that the utility has hired a consultant to create more visual simulations of the project in Concord; in particular, he will create images of the proposed project around McKenna’s Purchase and Loudon Road.

She also cautioned the council, reminding them of an old transmission line that is being rebuilt between Concord and Webster. The Concord Planning Board asked Eversource (then PSNH) to consider burying the lines, but that idea was dismissed for cost and negative affects on wetlands in that area. A $1.7 million project overground would have become a $17.5 million project underground, Kurylo said.

“The economics really aren’t a great solution,” Kurylo said.

All communication between Eversource and the city of Concord is available on the committee’s website at concordnh.gov. The committee will eventually make a full report to the council, but it won’t meet again in June or July, once the Concord City Council has finalized the budget for the upcoming year.

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


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