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Conservation committee concerned about wetlands impact from Northern Pass


June 17, 2016
NORTHUMBERLAND — Another town has expressed concerns about how construction of Northern Pass could jeopardize wetlands. The Northumberland Conservation Committee submitted a report to the state's Site Evaluation Committee late last month.

The SEC is considering whether to issue a permit that would allow for the construction of Northern Pass. The controversial 192-mile hydropower transmission project was first proposed in October 2010.

Committee Chairman Edwin Mellett submitted the report to the SEC. Elise Lawson and John Severance, two certified wetlands scientists, completed the document.

Six miles of above ground towers would be constructed in Northumberland, based on the proposed route of Northern Pass.

As discussed in a letter Mellett submitted with the report, the committee requests "a comprehensive study to determine the extent of the negative impacts on all types of wetlands and vernal pools" in Northumberland.

"The cumulative effects could be quite detrimental to wetlands," Mellett wrote.

The report focuses on three groups of wetlands in Northumberland, listed as northern, central, and southern areas of concern. Starting with the northern area, the three wetlands are 300, 176, and more than 1,036 acres in size.

The southern wetland in Northumberland extends for more than 1,800 additional acres into Lancaster, the report noted.

As the report suggests, larger wetlands in town extend beyond the proposed route of Northern Pass "into a diverse matrix of forested, scrub-shrub, emergent, open water, and riparian habitat."

The ability of the town's wetlands to slow runoff, protect water quality, and promote wildlife habitat are outlined in the report. Potential for impacts ranging from road construction, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of aquifers are general concerns that are also part of the report.

"If the project is approved," the report suggests, "careful monitoring of the entire area is crucial to help minimize these effects on wetlands, upland buffers, surface water, and ground water quality."

"There could be substantial negative impacts from proposed construction along the transmission line ROW {right of way}" in Northumberland, the report's authors concluded.

Northern Pass has submitted details on proposed mitigation strategies for the project's wetlands impacts. This includes a payment of more than $3 million to the state's Aquatic Resources Management program. The fund provides money for environmental protection and improvements of other wetlands when impacts on some wetlands occur.

The existing proposal for Northern Pass "is not an acceptable route for a project of this magnitude," Mellett declared in his letter.

"The project should be buried along state owned ROWs," he concluded.

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