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150 hear Northern Pass foes present some new research



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Darin Wipperman/The Littleton Courier Rebecca Weeks Sherill More gave a short presentation at the start of Sunday’s anti-Northern Pass meeting in Easton. She spoke of her great-grandfather’s legacy. John Wingate Weeks sponsored the legislation that led to the national forest system. Darin Wipperman/The Littleton Courier. (click for larger version)
September 26, 2012
EASTON —Presenting information that questions the value of Northern Pass (NP) seems guaranteed to draw a big crowd. Opponents of the controversial electrical tower project filled Easton's town hall Sunday afternoon. The meeting was a chance to offer new ideas on how to stop NP.

The crowd numbered 150 people.

Rebecca Weeks Sherill More suggested that NP was a new boa constrictor in the White Mountains. She then referenced a 1900 political cartoon that warned of the impact of logging operations in national forests. The cartoon showed a large snake destroying homes and the landscape.

More's great-grandfather, John Wingate Weeks, sponsored legislation that created eastern national forests. More said that the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) currently includes over 800,000 acres.

Jim Dannis then presented ideas on how WMNF could break the back of NP. His information included a paper that discussed this possibility. Dannis said that the research focused on the terms and conditions found in the WMNF land and resource management plan. He suggested that the research is preliminary.

Dannis told the crowd that tall electrical towers, even the shorter 85 footers under the revised NP proposal, create a very high hurdle to approval under the forest management plan. Any action by NP requires a special use permit. Dannis said that a permit for the towers and power lines should not be seen as consistent with existing forest goals.

The Dannis paper quotes from the forest management plan. It states, "Private uses of National Forest System land must not be authorized when such uses can be reasonably accommodated on other lands." {emphasis in original}

"There are other routes that are potentially available," Dannis declared. He noted Senator Jeanie Forrester's study that is currently looking into the use of existing state rights of way. Forrester, along with several other elected officials or candidates, sat in the hall during the event.

Dannis said that a second hurdle is the placement of lines over the Appalachian Trail. The forest plan also establishes "scenic integrity objectives" that Dannis said could not reasonably be met with the current NP plan.

Ken Kimball, Director of Research for the Appalachian Mountain Club, presented additional research. He noted that the club will be making recommendations to the Department of Energy regarding NP.

Kimball said that one major crossing and six major view impacts exist along the Appalachian Trail. He said that NP could not meet any criteria of "no net loss of recreational values." Kimball showed pictures of possible NP view impacts along the trail.

The meeting offered the first public release of some information related to the footprint that NP would have in towns across the state. Bethlehem would see 7.3 miles of lines, and approximately 48 towers. Sugar Hill would see that same number of towers. Easton's 6.5 miles of lines would include 43 towers. Lincoln would have 4.5 miles of lines with 30 towers.

This week, Kimball said the new research will be posted on the AMC website, www.outdoors.org.

Jim Duggan was another speaker. He provided statistics about the public comment process to the NP environmental impact statement. He said that a website, northerpasseis.us, collects the public comments. A contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy maintains the site.

Duggan noted that a total of 1,874 comments had been received. Only 57 comments supported the project. The most mentioned negative impact is ruined landscape. Burial of the lines is the primary alternative that commenters have proposed.

Near the end of Sunday's meeting, Thomas Mullen of the Owl's Nest spoke. There will be a golf tournament and auction on October 12. The event will raise money for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The Society is raising money to buy conservation easements in northern Coös County that are designed to block the NP route.

The Society hopes to raise $2.5 million to buy conservation easements on 1,800 acres.

Mullen said that the golf tournament would begin at 9:30 a.m. on the 12th. Those interested in playing, sponsoring, or donating can contact Patty Martin at Owl's Nest. Her contact information is 603-726-3076 x217 and patty@owlsnestgolf.com.

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