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Concord’s Northern Pass subcommittee reconvenes today



Last modified: Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Ellen Schaffer has been knocking on doors in her East Concord neighborhood, talking to her neighbors about Northern Pass and alerting them to opportunities for public input.

She’s against the project entirely. But she doesn’t care if her neighbors are in favor of the transmission lines. She just wants them to speak up.

“We better see what people think about this, because it’s going to be too late,” Schaffer said.

A partnership between Eversource 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.

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 city council, which has not taken a firm stance on the project, tasked a subcommittee with assessing the potential impact of Northern Pass in Concord.

That committee will reconvene today for the first time in months, with a recent draft of the federal Environmental Impact Statement, the latest plan from Eversource and new visual simulations of the would-be transmission line in Concord. At that meeting and others in coming months, the public will have chances to comment on the project.

Bill Quinlan, president of Eversource Energy New Hampshire Electric Operations, fielded questions about the proposed project 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.

Martin Murray, a spokesman for Eversource, clarified that the company has heard from many communities and stakeholders that could be touched by Northern Pass. Much of the commentary has been focused on eliminating the visual impact in the White Mountain National Forest, he said. So this summer, Eversource changed the Northern Pass route, taking the line underground through the mountains.

“We have met many times with city officials,” Murray said of Concord. “We’ve been in close touch with them as well as residents of the city, including, for example, McKenna’s Purchase. . . . We remain committed to working with the city subcommittee with an objective of reducing potential impact.”

Since that meeting with Eversource, however, Ward 8 Councilor Gail Matson has been hearing from more residents in recent weeks. All have asked for the lines to be buried or opposed the project altogether, she said. Matson is the chairwoman of the subcommittee studying the project.

“To the people at that meeting, they heard that there hadn’t been enough concern raised,” Matson said. “And it sounds to me like that’s what’s starting to happen now.”

The subcommittee will eventually make a report back to the Concord City Council as a whole. The meeting will begin at 4:15 p.m. today in council chambers. All information from the subcommittee – contact information for member councilors, agendas, minutes and documents regarding the Northern Pass route in Concord – can be found at concordnh.gov.

Schaffer, for one, plans to be at the meeting.

“You can’t complain unless you speak up,” Schaffer said.



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