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Comments to SEC distill many sides of Northern Pass debate

December 08, 2015
REGION — The Site Evaluation Committee continues to receive thoughts from across the state on Northern Pass. The North Country comments highly criticize the proposed hydroelectric transmission project, but recent comments from southern New Hampshire show support for the project from several people.

Northern Pass would run more than 130 miles of lines above ground, with burial proposed for a total of 60 miles, mainly through the White Mountains. Detractors of the project are concerned about damage to viewsheds and property values, while supporters note the need for more diversified energy sources.

The SEC's review process centers on whether to provide Northern Pass with the authority to build the project. The federal Department of Energy, another regulatory body involved in Northern Pass, recently announced that public hearings on the project's draft environmental impact statement would be moved from this month to next year.

Sugar Hill resident Nancy Martland, a major opponent of Northern Pass, sent the SEC a three-page letter last month. Even though the revised Northern Pass plan calls for buried lines in her town, Martland continues the battle against any overhead lines along the proposed route.

"I am taking this opportunity to call upon the SEC to use its enormous, some would say overreaching, power wisely," Martland said. She declared that the state regulatory body should "insist that Northern Pass be fully buried."

"Respect the majestic scenery that New Hampshire is famous for," Martland requested.

She suggested that the state's beauty "will be harmed irreparably by overhead lines."

"Please uphold the trust the public has placed in you," Martland continued.

"If Northern Pass can bury some of this line they can bury all of it with the cable technology they plan to use," she wrote.

Bryan Kelly of Franconia suggested the SEC consider a different location for Northern Pass.

"I continue to vehemently oppose the routing of the Northern Pass through a residential neighborhood," Kelly began.

About five miles of Northern Pass would be buried in Franconia along Routes 18 and 116. At a meeting last month, about 50 town residents requested the selectmen take a firm stand against the idea.

"The excavation and blasting proposed for this route passes less than 100 feet from my front doorstep," Kelly wrote.

"I encourage you to continue pursuit of a study to develop an energy corridor down Interstate 93 for projects like Northern Pass," he added.

Barbara Meyer of Franconia mentioned similar concerns in her Nov. 3 letter to the SEC.

Among several points, Meyer wrote, "I would encourage the committee members to drive Rt. 116 through Franconia and Easton, paying special attention to how close our buildings are to the road."

Some other commenters, from downstate, suggest Northern Pass is a sensible project. Emily LeBlanc of Manchester informed the SEC, "I am impressed with the thoughtful nature in which the companies involved have worked with local communities along the route to listen to their concerns and adjust plans accordingly."

LeBlanc added, "Northern Pass will bring additional, and much needed, energy to the region which will reduce energy costs for New Hampshire families."

Reduction in tax rates are another reason LeBlanc informed SEC of her support for Northern Pass.

Thomas Brisendine of Salem is another resident of southern New Hampshire to support Northern Pass.

Noting declining sources of energy production, Brisendine wrote, "We need to move quickly to bring more clean energy to the regional grid from which we get New Hampshire's power."

Because of prices well in excess of the national average, "We cannot continue to brush off the need for reducing our electricity costs anymore," Brisendine noted.

Brisendine suggested Northern Pass jobs and property tax payments would serve communities as a means to keep and attract businesses.

Jim Hadley, a former selectman in Northwood, provided further thoughts in favor of Northern Pass. He hoped New Hampshire would not miss out on abundant hydropower from Canada.

Hadley's letter discussed the efforts of Gov. Hugh Gallen in the early 1980s to harness Canadian power for New Hampshire.

"Unfortunately, Gov. Gallen lost his re-election bid for a third term in November 1982, and our state's energy policy has been labeled as dysfunctional ever since," Hadley noted.

Regarding Northern Pass, Hadley concluded, "A simple cost-benefit analysis shows how quickly the benefits outweigh the costs of this project."

Michele Robertson of Pembroke, a registered nurse, began her comments by suggesting, "I can tell you that the need for reliable electricity in New Hampshire is higher than ever."

Robertson's letter mentioned the necessity for the health care system to have reliable sources of electricity.

"It is no surprise that our state's hospitals and medical facilities rely heavily on consistent electricity to perform life-saving procedures and to treat ailments of all kinds. Generators can only go so far," she wrote.

A unique perspective against Northern Pass was offered to the SEC last month from Catherine Greenleaf of Lyme. As a wildlife rehabilitator, "I have many wild birds come into my facility that are injured due to collisions with high-voltage power lines," she wrote.

Many birds "depend upon the pristine wildlife habitats of New Hampshire for their survival," Greenleaf suggested. Thus, the 1,800 towers proposed by Northern Pass would increase bird injuries along the aboveground areas of the power route.

Comments received for and against Northern Pass can be viewed online at: http://www.nhsec.nh.gov/projects/2015-06/comments/2015-06comments.htm.

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