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Concord officials will need time to review more than 1,000 pages of Northern Pass report



Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2015
Four of the nine alternatives suggested for the Northern Pass route would bury the electric transmission line through Concord.

Those alternatives are part of a draft Environmental Impact Study released this week by the U.S. Department of Energy. As proposed, the 187-mile line would travel from Canada to Deerfield almost entirely above ground. A partnership between Eversource Energy and Hydro-Quebec, the project would bring Canadian hydropower to the New England grid.

“We are going to be fairly heavily impacted if that route is above ground,” said Ward 8 Councilor Gail Matson, chairwoman of a council subcommittee to study Northern Pass.

Burying the lines would nearly double the construction costs for Northern Pass, but the federal report said taking the project underground would reduce negative impacts on the environment, tourism and local property values.

While the draft report does not prefer one particular route over another, its alternatives could change the course of Northern Pass in New Hampshire and in Concord.

Officials for Northern Pass will likely use the report’s alternatives to finalize its route in coming weeks, and that path still needs federal and state approval. But Concord does not have the power to decide whether or where Northern Pass moves forward, even though 8 miles of the proposed route pass through the city.

Concord is, however, an intervenor in the state permitting process for Northern Pass, meaning city officials can weigh in on the project. The city has already commented twice on the project, once to express concerns about its environmental impacts and once to request its intervenor status.

Matson said she has not yet read the report, and the city’s subcommittee has not yet made any definite recommendations about the project. But the group has been waiting for this report and will meet again this summer to discuss it.

“What I was hoping for was the largest amount of information that we could gather – and the possibility of flexibility,” Matson said.

Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, said he and other city officials are still vetting the report, which is split into several volumes and is more than 1,000 pages. He didn’t have any response yet to its contents.

“It’s too premature to say,” Baia said.

The DOE will open a 90-day comment period next week, and the report listed three dates for public hearings on the draft study: Oct. 6 in Concord, Oct. 7 in Whitefield and Oct. 8 in Plymouth.

Residents will also be able to weigh in once Northern Pass begins the state permitting process with the Site Evaluation Committee, Eversource spokeswoman Lauren Collins said.

“There is going to be significant opportunity for public input in the coming months,” Collins wrote in an email.

The New Hampshire congressional delegation, however, has yet again called for an extended comment period on the DOE report. Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Republican Rep. Frank Guinta and Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster wrote to the DOE earlier this year asking for the public hearings to be scheduled at least 90 days after the draft release. They also requested public comments be accepted for at least 90 days after the final hearing.

“We believe that Granite Staters deserve more time to review, understand and provide comments on this document and that the Department must allow for meaningful input from residents before taking any steps,” the four officials said in a press release.

The draft Environmental Impact Study from the Department of Energy can be found online at northernpasseis.us.

All communication between Eversource and the city of Concord, as well as the minutes of the Northern Pass subcommittee, are available on the city’s website at concordnh.gov. That committee has not yet set a date for its next meeting.



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