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PSNH stresses route change not linked to Northern Pass

On Friday PSNH reiterated that the request to move a right of way currently along the Ammonoosuc did not relate to Northern Pass. This photograph was taken shortly after Tropical Storm Irene. Some power poles along the river remain in a position where equipment is being damaged, PSNH spokesman Martin Murray said. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
March 06, 2013
LITTLETON — The town has seen a good deal of discussion about the PSNH request to move an electrical right of way from the river to the industrial park. Developments last week put more options on the table, with the town perplexed by PSNH's original idea.

At a meeting with a PSNH agent on Wednesday, Marghie Seymour, chairperson of the Board of Selectmen, was not convinced the company's proposal was the best option. She was puzzled as to why the company wanted new lines so far from the river.

Seymour, Town Manager Fred Moody, and three members of the Littleton Industrial Development Corporation attended the meeting. Right of way agent Patty Quinn represented PSNH.

The first round of debate on the proposed right of way change occurred at the February 25 meeting of the selectmen. Several residents expressed concern that PSNH may be attempting to find a new route for Northern Pass, the controversial power project not liked by many in the North Country.

The company suggested that a 12-acre plot that borders the industrial park made sense as a way to move the river route. The town has owned the parcel of interest since 1995.

Last week PSNH reiterated that the company's interest is relocation of lines that Tropical Storm Irene affected. Company spokesman Martin Murray stressed that the proposal made to purchase the industrial park parcel had no relation to Northern Pass.

"There's a simple reason for having to relocate this line," Murray said. "The relocation of the right of way is due to flooding issues . . . poles are in the river now," he said.

Although the town is not yet convinced with the proposed route, PSNH stated it remained interested in a mutually beneficial resolution. Murray noted the company's interest in "a solution that works for everybody."

He continued, "There have been a number of proposed options suggested to remedy the situation, from rebuilding in the same area, to a physical relocation of the right of way." Of the options, Murray continued, "We're willing to discuss all of them with the town."

Reliability of the existing electric grid is important, Murray added. Damage from Irene shows "the fragility of the system," he suggested, and power lines that are "astride or in the river" are not the way to ensure safe and reliable electricity.

"We're going to work with the town," Murray said. An environmentally appropriate solution good for all can be found, he added. Through a balance of interests, Murray concluded, the company can work with residents to ensure the "continued reliability of the transmission system."

Even with these reassuring words, some area residents are not convinced. With strong opposition to Northern Pass, some people remain suspicious of PSNH's motives.

Concern about Northern Pass arose further south last week. In Easton and Sugar Hill, some residents have been contacted by a U.S. government contractor working on the Northern Pass environmental impact statement. Access to private property is the contractor's interest.

Responsible Energy Action, an anti-Northern Pass organization, mobilized to find answers for the curious Easton residents. A letter to the U.S. Department of Energy has expressed concern about the lack of respect for private property owners.

We requested an update from the staff person with the Department of Energy. No reply was received by Monday night.

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