As the New Year approaches, we are pleased to report that we have identified a new route in the North Country that we will submit to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Commission in the future for consideration and review. We are in the process of finalizing this new proposal and will soon be prepared to announce its specific details. This proposal was created in consideration of concerns raised regarding potential view impacts and private property issues. In response to the feedback we received, we have spent the past year identifying routing options that would locate the line on land that we own or that has easements we have obtained from willing sellers, and positions the line in a manner that reduces potential view shed impacts as much as possible.
We also recognize that while we are communicating with local citizens, stakeholders and public officials across New Hampshire, there is still much that can be done. We believe this communication and dialogue is critical to the ultimate success of the new route and the project overall and felt it was necessary to take some additional time to continue these efforts before we publicly announce the new routing proposal.
Some notable project improvements thus far include the improved structure design along the White Mountain National Forest portion of the route, enabling the project to reduce structure heights to approximately 85 feet, with no expansion of the existing right of way. Additionally, structures along the new right-of-way portion of the route will also be approximately 85 feet.
We are appreciative of the positive support we have received from all across the state, and are very proud to have the full endorsement of the two largest Chambers of Commerce in New Hampshire (Manchester and Nashua). Our recent jobs meetings in Coös County were an enormous success, and we look forward to resuming those meetings in the new year, along with informational outreach meetings across the state.
We are optimistic that our new routing proposal addresses the potential view shed and private property concerns that have been raised, and will enable us to move forward with the rigorous state and federal permitting processes. Those proceedings will serve as inclusive forums for the continued evolution of the project, providing a true measure and analysis of the benefits and impacts of the Northern Pass, as well as the opportunity for project improvements to be recommended and incorporated.
A recent Granite State Poll* by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center reports increasing support for the project.
The survey of 527 randomly selected NH adults indicates that there is more support for the project (42 percent) than opposition (37 percent) among those who are familiar with the project.
Strong support of the project has increased modestly to 16 percent, compared to 14 percent last April; while, Somewhat Support has grown to 26 percent from 19 percent.
Meantime, Strongly Oppose has remained flat at 23 percent; while, Somewhat Oppose decreased to 14 percent from 15 percent.
The Northern Pass is working successfully, as requested by the Legislature, to acquire, voluntarily, the land rights necessary for construction of the project.
The project currently has property rights to the vast majority of the land necessary for building the transmission line within existing rights of way; and, we are working successfully with property owners to purchase land or easements to develop an acceptable route in that area of the North Country where there is no existing transmission right of way.
Contrary to claims by some project opponents, the Northern Pass project is not predicated on the use of eminent domain.
The use of eminent domain for utility purposes is an extremely rare occurrence in New Hampshire, and we believe that existing State law is sufficient protection for property owners.
We are reviewing the amendment passed today by the NH Senate and what impact, if any, it may have on the project if enacted. Our initial review of the amendment suggests that:
While we continue to analyze the amendment and it is considered by the House, our work on the project continues.