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Plymouth stands united against Northern Pass

Sporting orange! New Hampshire's titan of tourism, the Common Man's founder, Alex Ray, speaks out against current plans to run the Northern Pass electrical transmission line down Main Street in Plymouth. (Photo by Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
May 11, 2016
PLYMOUTH—If there is anyone in the Town of Plymouth or surrounding communities who is not vehemently opposed to the current plan to run the Northern Pass electrical transmission line down Main Street in the Town of Plymouth, they were not in evidence at the public hearing on Monday evening at the Plymouth Regional High School auditorium.

In a now familiar sea of orange attire, one by one, Plymouth's elected representatives, Main Street business leaders, residents and neighbors came to the microphone to urge the Plymouth Select Board to "stand tall" and "just say no" to the Northern Pass.

Plymouth Select Board Chairman Mike Conklin reiterated that the Board is on record as opposed to the Northern Pass Project in its present form. He assured voters that as recently as May 4, the Town has communicated this stance to representatives of the electric utility.

Along with approximately 150 other municipalities, landowners and stakeholders, the Town of Plymouth has been granted intervenor status allowing it to weigh in on the project during State of New Hampshire's ongoing Site Evaluation Committee proceedings.

In response to a direct question from Plymouth resident and stakeholder Mary Crowley, Conklin reported that on at least two occasions, representatives of the electric utility have suggested that they may be willing to offer up to $10 million over a 10 year period in consideration for Plymouth's participation in the Main Street transmission line proposal.

According to Conklin, the purpose of this week's public hearing was to allow citizen input into the Town's deliberations on the Northern Pass.

From legendary businessman Alex Ray and New Hampshire Gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, to the residents and neighbors of such iconic scenic landmarks as Plymouth's beautiful Old Hebron Road, dozens of speakers appealed to the Town to resist any financial incentive offered by the power company which might even present an appearance of acquiescence to the proposal to dig up Main Street for the controversial transmission line project.

Conjuring up unpleasant images such as jackhammers pounding away at the sidewalk outside Main Street coffee shops, or rattling the glass of Artistic Roots Gallery shop windows, and back hoes lined up on the street just outside Steve Rand's front door, local merchants warned against the potentially devastating economic consequences of tearing up Main Street for the construction project.

Calling the plan "disruptive," "unethical," "unnecessary," "senseless" and "absurd," speaker after speaker registered opposition to the current Northern Pass plan which would route the line underground through Plymouth, but would entail the installation of above ground high power transmission lines up to 145 feet tall in certain locations in surrounding communities such as Bridgewater, Bristol, New Hampton and other towns South of Plymouth.

Citing the potential loss of the essential tourism dollars to the local economy, former State Senator and Plymouth resident Deb Reynolds said that the Main Street leg of the project would have "devastating effects for years to come."

"The only palatable alternative would be burial of the transmission lines along the Route I-93 corridor right of way," said Reynolds-- a sentiment echoed by State Representative Suzanne Smith and many other speakers.

Longtime Plymouth resident Dick Hage said that at least 458 local stakeholders, including 63 merchants of downtown Plymouth have already signed petitions opposed to the project.

Hage thanked the Plymouth Select Board for their continued opposition to the Northern Pass.

"In my many years in Plymouth, I have never seen such mass scale consensus about the values we hold dearly," said Hage. "Beauty matters, safety matters, property values matter, sustainability matters, home-grown matters, flora and fauna matters, what we as custodians pass on to our children deeply matters. I applaud the Plymouth select board for being good stewards of our values and let us be perfectly clear to Northern Pass that we do accept bribes."

The Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative's Co-Director, Sandra Jones called for greater attention to viable alternatives to largescale industrial energy projects.

"I am proud to say that over 650 families and businesses have joined PAREI over the last 11 years as we work on energy conservation, efficiency and installing renewable energy, one building at a time… and if every community south of us worked on this as hard as the Plymouth area does, we wouldn't need a Northern Pass," said Jones.

New Hampshire's visionary entrepreneur Alex Ray seconded that observation.

"Let's send a message," said Ray. "Let's not even think of helping the eastern seaboard use more electric power… Just think about Times Square… Let's get together and encourage the blocking of this extension cord for the waste of electricity."

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