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3 new 13.5-foot taller electric pole structures raise questions

November 09, 2011
RANDOLPH — Three new electric pole structures — 13.5 feet taller than the norm on this Public Service of New Hampshire right-of way (ROW) — were installed in September on the south side of Route 2. This is part of a "re-sagging" project to accommodate the power transmission needs of the Granite Reliable Power wind farm, now under construction in Millsfield and Dixville.

This ROW is on one leg of the so-called Cos Loop that runs from Berlin-Gorham to Whitefield, Whitefield to Groveton, and Groveton to Berlin-Gorham.

The new poles — nos. 215 and 219 — are 13.5 feet taller than the ones they replaced.

"Two of the structures in the right of way in Randolph were replaced," explained PSNH senior spokesman Martin Murray in an e-mail exchange. "Each structure has two poles. In total, four poles in Randolph were replaced.

"The exposed height, above ground, of the original poles was 43 feet," Murray said.

A new set of poles further west, mid-span between pole nos. 195 and 196, was also installed, located near the original Amphibrach trail up the northern slopes of the Presidential Range. That set, is also 56.5 feet tall.

The visible height of the new poles is 56.5 feet, 13-and-a-half-feet taller than those they replaced.

"The structures were raised in order to remain within electrical code requirements, as additional generation from the wind farm comes on line," the spokesman explained.

"In short, the work was necessary in order to ensure that a proper clearance between wire and ground is maintained."

IC Reed of Raymond performed the work.

The electrical upgrades are being paid for by Granite Reliable, which is 75 owned by Brookfield Renewable Power, a Canadian firm with U.S. headquarters in Marlborough, Mass. Freshet Wind Energy, LLC, of Lyme, owns the remaining 25 percent under the aegis of Wagner Timber Management.

Planning board member Bob Ross brought the rumor that taller poles had been erected in town to his fellow board members at its October 6 meeting.

Subsequent inquiries revealed that PSNH had only notified the town of its intent to erect taller towers in a routine Department of Utility Maintenance Notification Form, dated July 27, as required by the state Department of Environmental Services.

"While these structures are in upland areas, a total of approximately 1,152 sq. ft. of temporary wetland impact is necessary for structure access only (6 separate crossings at 192 sq. ft. each). Mats will be used. A map was attached.

No mention was made that four poles would be 13.5 feet higher than those they replaced or that the new structure would also be that height.

Neither the board of selectmen nor the Planning Board received any notice that taller towers were to be put up in Randolph.

At its Thursday night meeting on Nov. 3, the Planning Board reached consensus that it would look into whether the board could require notice of any proposed changes in height or additional locations, allowing discussion and possible negotiation over details, according to Board member Arlene Eisenberg.

Although apparently no view-sheds, either from private or public properties, were adversely affected by the placement of the three taller structures, Board members are concerned that this might not be the case if other existing towers are replaced with taller structures.

Eisenberg explained, "We want to know what, if any, the town's rights are, or if only the state Public Utilities Commission has a say."

In the interest of full disclosure, reporter Edith Tucker lives on the north side of Route 2 in Randolph. The view of the northern slopes of the Presidential Range — Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams — that she and members of her extended family enjoy could potentially be affected if taller electric towers were to be erected on the Cos Loop.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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