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Reaction to proposed Northern Pass is mixed

November 03, 2010
COOS COUNTY — There is an old political saying: "Where you stand depends on where you sits." In the case of the proposed new transmission line the old saw could be modified: "Where you stand depends on where you live."

Little to no positive reaction has been expressed to the news that a brand-new 150-foot-wide right-of-way (ROW) from Pittsburg south to the Lost Nation substation in Groveton would be have to cleared to accommodate the proposed 1,200 megawatt High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Northern Pass Transmission line.

Far less reaction, however, surrounds the news that an existing ROW has been designated as the preferred route south of the Lost Nation substation to the one in Whitefield.

Groveton selectman Jim Tierney said that he is "open to" the Northern Pass Transmission project and has not received any telephone calls from townspeople worried about its potential impact.

Only a few landowners own property north of the Lost Nation substation, Mr. Tierney noted, and only existing ROWs would be used on the south side. The size of town's tax base which has been adversely affected by the paper mills being shuttered, would increase substantially from the addition of some four miles of transmission lines, Mr. Tierney said, noting that he is continuing to learn project details.

Although some other communities apparently are focusing on that fact that these new facilities would depreciate over time, Mr. Tierney pointed out that the figure would never go anywhere near zero.

He recalled that the selectboard had hired George "Skip" Sansoucy of Lancaster a couple of years ago to undertake an independent assessment of the town's three utilities: Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS), Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), and then-Verizon, now Fairpoint.

The utilities expert came up with higher values for all three and none challenged his revised figures. The values provided by the state Department of Revenue Administration are only "suggested" amounts and not ones that are mandated.

"Whatever additional property tax dollars we can get would be a help, as long as there are no major downsides," he said, Mr. Tierney explained.

Mario Audit works for PSNH and always steps down from any discussion that involves his employer. Mr. Tierney recalled, for example, that he did not participate in discussions surrounding having fewer streetlights in town.

Former Groveton selectman Rob Larsen said that he hated to think that a $1.1 billion project would not create any but relatively short-term jobs in Cos. "Even though some of my property could be affected, I'm neither for the Northern Pass project nor against it, but I do believe that having an increase in the town's property tax base is not the answer to putting food on the table — that depends on creating jobs, and this would not do that."

He pointed out that upgrading or replacing all or part of the so-called Cos Loop from Whitefield to Berlin-Gorham to Lost Nation in Groveton has the potential to create permanent jobs.

After hearing from a number of angry and upset constituents, Cos District 1 Rep. Larry Rappaport, a Republican of Colebrook, is planning to fight to have at least the first 40 miles of the transmission line located in the state of Vermont.

If built as now proposed, the new line, whose wire-carrying structures would be approximately 90 to 135 feet tall, would be visible from The Balsams and Ben Young Hill, Rep. Rappaport said. "The NH Grand tourism promotion project, in which the state has heavily invested, is designed to increase the number of visitors to Cos, and yet this proposed transmission line seems as odds with this economic development strategy," he said.

Furthermore, Rep. Rappaport said, only 200 megawatts would be dropped off at the proposed converter station in Franklin and then carried on a planned Alternating Current (AC) transmission line to Deerfield to go onto the grid. The remaining 1,000 MW are destined to flow into Massachusetts and Connecticut, he said.

Rep. Rappaport is also afraid, he said, that satisfying the demand for electricity with hydroelectric power from Quebec would serve to stifle the incentive to build job-creating alternative energy projects in the North Country.

County treasurer Fred King of Colebrook believes that it is unlikely that it will be possible to move the proposed line to the east side of the Connecticut River, Rep. Rappaport explained. His fellow townsman is opting to spend his energies pushing for lower electrical rates in Cos County, which he sees a creative kind of mitigation for the project's overall impact.

Pittsburg Police Chief Richard Lapoint said that he believes it is too soon to take a position on the transmission line proposal and that he would both gather information and attend pubic hearings to listen to all facets of the issue.

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

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

At 6:30 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 Lancaster meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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

Martin Lord Osman
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