Concord City Council still pushing back on Northern Pass

  • Jennifer Kretovic at the Site Evaluation Committee’s final public comment session on the Northern Pass proposal. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • Jennifer Kretovic at the Site Evaluation Committee’s final public comment session on the Northern Pass proposal. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • Paul Allard at the Site Evaluation Committee’s final public comment session on the Northern Pass proposal. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • The Site Evaluation Committee listens to people speak about the Northern Pass proposal during the committee’s final public comment session on the issue. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Standing before the state’s Site Evaluation Committee on Wednesday night, Concord City Council member Jennifer Kretovic brought up how the towers for the Northern Pass project – the tallest rising 160 feet – would be higher than the State House dome.

She pointed out how the city has spent millions of dollars in the last 10 years to conserve almost 3,000 acres of land in an effort to preserve Concord’s rural character.

She even argued the power lines running through the city could affect more people than any other community along the project’s proposed route from Pittsburg to Deerfield. As proposed, Northern Pass would enter Concord from Canterbury east of Interstate 93 and run southeast, crossing Interstate 393, passing through the Heights and over the Soucook River into Pembroke.

“With a population of 42,000 that swells to more than 80,000 during the workweek, in Concord, Northern Pass potentially has more direct impact of more people than in any other location in the state,” Kretovic said, reading from a letter drafted by the city council on the final night of public comment on the controversial power line project.

Although councilors shared the concerns of the many other people who have spoken out against the project during more than three months of state hearings, the council stopped short of opposing the project altogether.

“On behalf of our community, the Concord City Council wants you to know that we absolutely do not believe that the local economic benefits of the Northern Pass project are sufficient for you to determine that its construction is in the public interest – if it is built as proposed through Concord,” she read.

Kretovic said after speaking that the mayor’s ad-hoc committee created two years ago to study how Northern Pass would affect the city did have conversations about how the proposal, which brings 1,090 megawatts of electricity from HydroQuebec hydropower dams, would affect the 23 communities surrounding Concord.

Ultimately, however, the council decided their view must focus on the project’s impact on the city, Kretovic said.

“This is not about opposing a project that is going to add power to the power grid,” she said. “...We try to think locally, and we know we serve as a regional hub for the area, but our No. 1 priority has to be our residents.”

The three-hour comment session was certainly not lacking voices from outside of Concord opposing to the project. More than 30 people signed up to speak from all over the state.

Some, like Linda Chappell of Clarksville, had deeply personal reasons for opposing the project: Her family has lived in her town for six generations, she said, and the project, if approved, would run alongside her ancestors’ graves and over other old cemeteries.

“I hate to think of their bodies getting rolled over,” she said, her voice breaking. “Please, consider those who can’t speak for themselves.”

Others, like Jackie Colthart, a self-professed “dreaded summer person” who spends half her year in Ashland, spoke passionately of their love of their home away from home.

“My husband and I will never see the Northern Pass towers from our home,” she said. “But I’m here because we love this place. We love the mountains, the peace we get from just looking at them, even while you’re on the way to the grocery store.”

While public comment sessions have come to an end, Mike Iacopino, serving as legal council for the committee, said written comment will be accepted until a decision on the project is made.

There’s no telling when that will be; Northern Pass made major footholds in the state recently when it received its federal Environmental Impact Statement permit from the U.S. Department of Energy in early August. However, the project still requires other federal permits, including DOE’s Presidential Permit, a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before it can move forward.