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New Hampton voters side against Northern Pass

April 20, 2011
NEW HAMPTON— At a public Forum this past Saturday, New Hampton residents and property owners registered their opposition to the proposed Northern Pass Electrical Transmission project, passing a resolution against construction of "any portion" of the project "in New Hampton and the State of New Hampshire" by a vote of 140 in favor, five against.

The resolution that was passed called the Northern Pass Electrical Transmission line a "blight on the landscape" that would "devastate the values of properties within its transmission corridor and adversely impact fragile wildlife habitat and wetlands..."

It goes on to state that the project, as proposed, will "cause inestimable damage to treasured residential and scenic private properties and the orderly economic development of the Town, its economy, and the health and well-being of its residents."

The vote came at a meeting organized by the New Hampton Select Board after large numbers of residents voiced concerns and questions about the impact the project will have on the Town of New Hampton.

Select board member Ken Mertz said after the event that he was gratified both by the turnout for the public forum, and for the cordial tone of the discussion that ensued. He said that people were able to exchange ideas and differing perspectives on the project in a respectful discussion, and that the message coming out of the meeting was very clear.

Mertz said that the select board thought it was very important to inform and to educate he voters of New Hampton, but the board had wanted to adopt a position of neutrality until they could take the pulse of the community with a public meeting where everyone had a chance to ask questions and voice their opinion.

The vote of the assembled citizens will put the board in a strong position to speak to public officials about the residents' concerns as the Northern Pass project goes forward through the permitting process.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to Gov. Lynch, state and national legislators, and the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.

New Hampton resident and Northern Pass opponent Neil Irvine said that he was encouraged that so many New Hampton residents voiced opposition to the proposal, whether or not it was likely to impact their own local neighborhood or community.

"The vote was just shy of unanimous," said Irvine.

He said that the discussion indicated that people have read the literature, done their homework, and formed their own independent opinion.

"It is clear that this is not just a New Hampton issue for them," said Irvine. "It is not just a North Country Issue. It is a New Hampshire issue."

Irvine says he believes that the Northern Pass would negatively impact the crucial tourism industry, affecting the entire New Hampshire economy. He suggests that if tourists are no longer traveling to the Lakes Region and the White Mountains, that is going to impact the economy of the entire state. He also said he feels it will likely destroy the fledgling renewable energy industry here in New Hampshire.

Irvine says he is afraid that the recent willingness of the Northern Pass proponents to drop all proposals for alternative routes may signal an attempt to peel off community opponents in parts of New Hampshire that will no longer be effected by the project. But he says he thinks that residents all over New Hampshire, like New Hampton residents, will continue to fight the Northern Pass whether it passes through their hometown or not.

"It's not just NIMBY's," explained Mertz about the sentiments expressed at the meeting. "It 's clear that people feel that all New Hampshire is my back yard."

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
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