Councilor Burton announces opposition to Northern Pass as proposed


January 05, 2011
By KAYTI BURT

kburt@salmonpress.com

NORTH COUNTRY- Executive Councilor Ray Burton is the most recent voice to speak out against the proposed Northern Pass project that would bring a power line through the North Country.

"As a long time elected official, I see no value in this project coming through New Hampshire as currently proposed," said Burton in a statement he released last week.

Unlike some opponents, Burton does not oppose the project altogether, but rather how it is proposed with no benefit to the taxpayers of New Hampshire, in particular of the North Country, Burton elaborated earlier this week.

The venture is being made by Hydro-Quebec, a Canadian company; Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH); and NSTAR. It will bring competitively-priced energy to consumers in southern New Hampshire, brought by a 140-mile transmission line that will run from Quebec through the North Country to a converter substation in Franklin. After being converted from direct current to alternating current and continue further south to the existing substation in Deerfield, from which it will be distributed.

The line would go along existing PSNH right-of-ways for part of its route through the region, but in much of the northernmost land, there are no existing right-of-ways. This will mean either working out an arrangement with the owners of the properties or, if they refuse, trying to take it by eminent domain. The towers would be between 90 and 135 feet depending on the width of the right-of-way, some of which may have to be widened.

"Another concern of mine: the high towers that are going to impact our good views and scenic beauty," said Burton, a common concern for North Country residents who fear the tall towers will blight the countryside, leading to a decrease in property values and a drop in tourism.

"It's sort of been on the back burner for at least a year," said Burton. "Now, it's on the front burner and, in the North Country, the heat is on high."

Still, Burton remains optimistic about the ability of those involved with the project to compromise, as he has worked with many of the players before. One alternative suggested often by those who don't disapprove of the project, but rather to the fact that there seems to be no long-lasting positive impact to the North Country, is to bury the line underground. This is a much costlier option, but would not negatively affect property values or tourism.

"It's not going to be built tomorrow at 8 o'clock. This is going to take years," said Burton, stressing that there will be time for public input. He highlighted the Site Evaluation Committee, one of the groups Northern Pass will have to get permitting from in order to proceed, as a particularly respectable group which will listen closely to their concens.

"I would encourage local groups to invite the applicants to come give a presentation," said Burton to those who are worried they will not have a voice in the process, or that they are not well informed.

Right now, the Northern Pass is working to get a Presidential Permit, required for projects that cross international borders, and several local groups and residents have filed as interveners to the project, including the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The Department of Energy, which is in charge of approving or denying Presidential Permits, will conduct public scoping meetings as part of its process. The meetings' locations and dates have yet to be announced.

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