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Details of 1,200-MW HVDC transmission line route released


October 27, 2010
MANCHESTER — Residents of Cos and Grafton Counties are learning more about the proposed route of the 1,200-megawatt Northern Pass Transmission LLC high voltage direct current (HVDC) line. The proposed route was released in recent weeks and some meetings in affected towns have been held. More are scheduled (see related article).

A lot of information is included in the company's 34-page Oct. 14 application, for a Presidential Permit from the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. A Presidential Permit is needed for the project to cross the border between the U.S. and Canada.

After crossing the border in Pittsburg at a location not yet finalized, the New Hampshire segment of the proposed HVDC line would run south for approximately 140 miles to the southern converter station in Franklin, where the DC power would be converted to alternating current (AC).

For this portion of the project, Northern Pass proposes to construct a single circuit +-300kV HVDC above-ground transmission line that would be mounted on structures ranging from approximately 90 feet to 135 feet tall. According to the application "In certain areas, existing 34.5 kV and 115 kV structures will need to be rebuilt, within the existing right-of-way (ROW) in order to efficiently utilize existing ROW for new facilities."

Typical existing ROW widths vary from approximately 150 feet to 410 feet.

No transmission ROW now exists in northern Cos County from the Canadian border, 45 miles south to the Lost Nation substation in Northumberland. Therefore a new 150-foot-wide ROW must be acquired. The existing electric lines there are all distribution lines, and not transmission lines, project manager Anne Bartosewicz recently explained.

From the Lost Nation substation all the way south to the converter station in Franklin, the proposed new line would be located within an existing transmission ROW, although in some areas this ROW would have to be widened.

The map submitted with the application lays out a preferred route and alternate routes in some locations where historic sites and conservation lands could be impacted by the preferred route. In some cases the alternate route also crosses sensitive areas. Among the potentially affected areas in Cos and Grafton counties are the Connecticut River Scenic Byway, Cape Horn State Forest, Bunnell Working Forest, Appalachian Trail, and Pondicherry Refuge. The preferred route also includes several sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places or eligible to be listed, including the Poore Family Homestead District and Keazer-Flanders Farm in Stewartstown; the Johnson Farm in Stratford; and the Rocks Estate in Bethlehem.

The company believes that the impacts of the preferred route would have less impact on environmental and other resources than the alternative segments.

"Northern Pass will coordinate with the USFWS, USFS, U.S. EPA, state Fish and Game, DRED, state DES, and scientists from research institutions and environmental organizations and others to ensure that potential impacts to threatened and endangered species and habitats have been carefully considered and avoided, minimized, or mitigated," the application reads.

The routes

The map shows three alternative segments in the north section. Generally, the applicant points out, alternatives offer trade-offs between the types of resources affected.

The first alternative is one-half-mile longer than the preferred route, located east of it, primarily in Stratford. The 10.2-mile alternative deviates to the east around several mountains, limiting visibility from the Connecticut River Scenic Byway, but crossing part of the Bunnell Working Forest, a protected conservation area.

The second alternative segment is approximately 8.6 miles long, one mile longer than the preferred route. It would bypass the cape Horn State Forest to the west and traverse the towns of Northumberland and Lancaster. It crosses fewer wetlands and water bodies, but does not follow an existing ROW, would be more visible from the Connecticut River Scenic Byway, and cross the Potter Farm, now held by The Nature Conservancy.

The third alternative segment is approximately 21.1 miles long, 1.8 miles longer than the preferred route and would bypass the community of Whitefield, as well as an historic site and some conservation lands. The entire length of this alternative through a corner of Whitefield, and across both Dalton and Littleton, calls for the acquisition and development of a new ROW that would be more visible from the Connecticut River Scenic Byway and also cross it.

Two alternative segments are in the central section: one would wind around the WMNF requiring a new 53-mile-long, 150-foot-wide ROW and also cross the Appalachian Trail; the other would require a new ROW, starting just north of Webster Lake, and be highly visible to residents there.

The route does not go through any of the 23 Unincorporated Places in Cos County.

The towers

Because terrain and existing ROW width along the preferred route varies, two structure types are being considered for the HVDC line: tubular steel monopole and steel lattice structures.

In areas where the new line will be located on all new ROW, support structures would be placed in a ROW about 150 feet wide.

Generally, structures would be spaced approximately 800 feet apart, with a maximum of about 1,000 feet. No underground or underwater lines would be installed.

"To the extent possible," the applicant writes, "Northern Pass intends to use existing transmission ROW under an arrangement with PSNH. Regardless of the final routing, (however, it) anticipates the need to acquire some additional ROW."

"Northern Pass is a special purpose entity created to construct, own, operate and maintain a transmission project that will deliver competitively priced, low carbon power that will help satisfy the requirements of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, help achieve the goals of the N. H. Climate Action Plan by enabling importation of Canadian hydroelectric power, and help mitigate price volatility in the region's fuel diversity," the applicant writes.

The application also points out that the project will be participant-funded by H.Q. Hydro Renewable Energy, Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned U. S. subsidiary of Hydro-Quebec under an agreement subject to Federal Energy Regulatory commission (FERC) approval. It will not be paid for directly by ratepayers.

The application also states, "(The power) will not be intermittent in the way that wind and solar power are." Construction and white-collar jobs will also be created as well as an increased tax base for municipalities and the counties through with the line passes.

Northern Pass anticipates that DOE will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the environmental impacts, in compliance with federal laws and regulations, the applicant states. Numerous agencies as well as the public will also review the project during preparation of the EIS and during the federal and state permitting process.

11 more Northern Pass Transmission public meetings set

MANCHESTER — Several public presentations at municipal meetings to detail the Northern Pass Transmission project have already been held in Cos and Grafton Counties, but more are scheduled. Northern Pass is a proposed 1,200 megawatt high voltage direct line (HVDC) that will run from Pittsburg to Franklin and continue south to bring hydro-power to southern New England.

Representatives of Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH), a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, have set up meetings with selectboards in towns that will potentially be affected by the project.

A meeting is scheduled at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 1, in Stewartstown and another at 6 p.m. in Clarksville.

Back-to-back meetings are also scheduled at 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8, in Franconia, and at 5:30 p.m. in Sugar Hill.

A 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9, is scheduled in the Dalton municipal building.

A 12 noon meeting with the Androscoggin Valley Economic Recovery Corp. is set on Monday, Nov. 15, at a location to be determined.

At 6:30 later that day a meeting will also be held in the Whitefield town office.

The Stark select board will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 with transmission line representatives.

The select board will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Columbia on Nov. 22.

By the time this newspaper is in print selectboard meetings will have been held in Colebrook, Northumberland, Bethlehem, Pittsburg, and Stratford.

Rep. Larry Rappaport and county treasurer Fred King, both of Colebrook, have asked to be on the agenda at 6:30 p.m. at tonight's select board meeting to discuss a possible way or ways in which the Northern Pass project could benefit the town in addition to increasing its property tax base.

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