×

Residents’ opposition to overhead Northern Pass lines is ‘unanimous,’ councilor says



Last modified: Tuesday, September 29, 2015
A Concord City Council subcommittee will write a report about the overwhelming opposition to overhead transmission lines as part of the Northern Pass proposal in Concord, the chairwoman said Monday.

“They asked for it to be buried,” Ward 8 Councilor Gail Matson said of input from Concord residents. “It is unanimous. As a council, I think we need to put a good amount of weight in that.”

The committee has held several meetings with project officials and Concord residents to weigh the effect of the transmission project in the city of Concord. A partnership between Eversource Energy and Hydro-Quebec, Northern Pass would travel 8 miles through the northern and eastern parts of Concord. The latest proposal would bury 60 miles of the 192-mile route, which takes the line underneath the White Mountain National Forest but not the capital city.

Currently, the majority of the power lines in Concord on that right-of-way are between 43 and 97 feet tall. Should the hydropower project be approved, most of the new lines would stand between 85 and 100 feet tall. In limited cases in Concord, the poles could be 125 feet tall.

Northern Pass still needs state and federal approval; Concord and other individual communities do not have the power to decide whether Northern Pass moves forward. But Concord does have intervenor status in the federal permitting process, meaning city officials can weigh in on the project. The comment period for the federal review has been extended to the end of this year, as the U.S. Department of Energy reopens its environmental review of the newest proposed route.

The city council has not taken a firm stance on the project, but it tasked a subcommittee with determining the potential impact in Concord. At a meeting Monday, the subcommittee agreed to deliver a report on their findings to the city council by its regular November meeting. The group will likely hold a public hearing on Northern Pass at that time as well.

The subcommittee has received 13 emails and heard testimony from at least 16 people to date; some abutters have submitted both written and verbal comments. The subcommittee has also received a growing petition of more than 490 names against the overhead lines.

“I think there’d be a lot less resistance to this project if the lines were underground,” Concord resident Judy Eliasberg said, turning in her seat to address to Eversource Energy officials directly. “I think just about everyone who lives in Concord feels that way.”

Gerry Drypolcher, a Concord resident, was among those who voiced opposition to the overhead lines as well Drypolcher is the chairman of the planning board, but he said he was not speaking for that group.

“They’re just trying to save every penny they can, and they’re not worried about us absorbing the ugliness of what they want to put through the neighborhoods,” Drypolcher said.

He said he was upset when he heard a comment from Eversource Energy president Bill Quinlan at a public input session in Concord earlier this month.

“We did not hear a lot of statewide or stakeholder-wide expression for any particular town, other than the White Mountain National Forest,” Quinlan said when asked about why the lines weren’t proposed underground through Concord.

Martin Murray, a spokesman for Eversource Energy, later clarified to the Monitor that much of the commentary has focused on the White Mountain National Forest, but the company has also been working with Concord officials and residents. But that comment has resonated with many like Drypolcher who have since testified before the city councilors about Northern Pass.

“Say, bury it,” Drypolcher told the subcommittee Monday. “Let’s become some of the people they can add to their stakeholder list.”

Eversource Energy officials have been present at every subcommittee meeting to answer questions and defend Northern Pass.

They have pointed out changes to make the project aesthetically pleasing, such as a switch from a lattice structure to what they say is a less obtrusive monopole structure where the project would cross Loudon Road.

Eversource Energy project manager Bonnie Kurylo touted a fund to invest $200 million throughout New Hampshire over 10 years, as well as a projected annual savings of $80 million in electricity costs across the state.

At the height of construction, “2,400 indirect and direct jobs” will be associated with Northern Pass, Eversource Energy project manager Bonnie Kurylo said. The utility has estimated the project could cost $1.4 billion and be in service in 2019.

“We want to make sure those jobs go to New Hampshire workers first,” Kurylo said.

No one, however, has asked the subcommittee to push for overhead lines. While the report to the council as a whole will reflect that input, Matson was cautious.

“We can ask,” Matson said of the public input on burying the lines. “But we may be overruled.”

All information about the subcommittee – contact information for member councilors, agendas, minutes and documents regarding the Northern Pass route in Concord – can be found at concordnh.gov.



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



Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the estimated cost of construction for Northern Pass. That figure is $1.4 billion. The story has also been updated with the latest number of names on a petition against the overhead transmission lines.