The project recently received a comment from a person who believed that the recent conserving of some land surrounding The Balsams resort had been earlier threatened by The Northern Pass. That is not the case, and we provided a response, which we share below.
Thank you for contacting us with your concerns regarding conservation of The Balsams property. There is a good deal of misinformation that has been disseminated online and in the press regarding Northern Pass and its efforts to acquire an easement over a small portion of The Balsams property.
Contrary to that misinformation, Northern Pass fully supported conservation of the approximately 5800 acres of Balsams property that was ultimately placed under a conservation easement, and believes that the roughly 55 acre utility easement that it sought to purchase was entirely consistent with the conservation effort. Northern Pass’ offer totaled $2,200,000 which included $2,000,000 that could have been used by Tillotson Corporation to promote its North Country conservation and economic development mission, and an additional $200,000 contribution to Tillotson Corporation that would have been used to improve the delivery of medical care to Coos County residents. These funds would have been in addition to the $850,000 that the SPNHF paid to Tillotson for the conservation easement.
We will never know how many thousands of acres could have been conserved, or how many hundreds or thousands of people would have received health care or improved health care, had Tillotson Corporation chosen not to reject the benefits that accepting Northern Pass’ offer would have delivered. Had Tillotson chosen to accept the offer by Northern Pass, the approximately 5800 acres would still have been conserved as it is today, but the North Country would also have received a substantial infusion of funds that would have had a much broader positive impact on the lives of people in the North Country.
We acknowledge the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests’ intensive effort to raise $850,000 necessary for the purchase of a conservation easement on about 5,800 acres of land surrounding The Balsams resort that was recently sold by the Tillotson Trust to Balsams View LLC. (Balsams View LLC purchased a total of about 7,700 acres, including the 5,800 that are within the conservation easement.)
As a reminder, the Northern Pass project had also offered to purchase the conservation easement, if the sale to the SPNHF did not occur. In addition, the project offered the Trust an additional $2.2 million for a designated utility right of way in the northern tip of The Balsams property, and for a non-contiguous parcel in West Stewartstown.
For our part, we believe that the use of the utility right of way by Northern Pass could co-exist hand-in-hand with the conservation effort, building jobs, ensuring the continuation of a working forest and bringing clean renewable power to New Hampshire and the region. The additional $2.2 million could have been used by the Trust to help meet its objective of providing economic benefit to the North Country.
While Northern Pass had an interest in this specific utility right of way, we are continuing to successfully work with landowners as we consider other routing alternatives. We look forward to soon announcing a new proposed route that has the support of underlying land owners.
Transmission Structures and Corridors on the SPNHF Conserved Lands
Separate from the specific utility right of way that SPNHF will obtain, the Tillotson Trust has retained the right to construct transmission structures and access roads anywhere on the property, including the SPNHF conserved land, in order to connect to wind turbines on two parcels of land, abutting The Balsams, that the Trust has retained for the future construction of wind farms.
As the owner and operator of the transmission system within the state, Public Service of New Hampshire is required by the federal government to ensure that such energy developments are connected to the regional power grid.
A recent example is the connection to the grid of the Granite Reliable project located in New Hampshire’s North Country. (See photo, below.) Each of the 33 turbines atop nearby mountain ridges are 400 feet tall from ground to tip of blade.
In that case, as with the future wind farms at The Balsams, the developer is responsible for constructing the corridors and structures to connect to the existing transmission system; PSNH is responsible for then making the connection.
The sale of The Balsams Resort by the Neil Tillotson Trust to Balsams View LLC has been completed. Northern Pass is pleased that the future of the Balsams Resort is secure and that the new owners are committed to maintaining the 300 jobs and tremendous economic value the Resort brings to the North Country. We look forward to working with them in the future, and wish them well in their efforts to renovate and re-open the resort.
Unrelated to the sale of the hotel, we recently asked the Attorney General to reject the pending and separate sale of a small utility right of way in the northern tip of the property by the Tillotson Trust to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. (We did not raise any question about — and we support fully — the conveyance of a conservation easement to the Forest Society.)
Our inquiry to the Attorney General was based on our belief that the project’s use of the utility right of way can co-exist with a conservation easement over the surrounding land, and together provide significant value to the Tillotson Trust that can be redistributed to the residents and communities in the North Country for essential health, social and economic services. We also believe that the project’s use of the utility right of way would have less impact than the Trust’s own transmission easement across the Balsams Resort property for future wind farm development. Northern Pass had previously submitted an offer for use of this utility right of way.
Following our inquiry with the Attorney General, we learned that the Forest Society was only interested in purchasing the conservation easement if the utility right of way was included. In response to the Forest Society’s publicly-stated position and to address the possibility that the conservation easement might be lost, Northern Pass submitted a new offer to the Trust to purchase the conservation easement over the 5,800 acres of land surrounding the resort as well as the utility right of way. We are supportive of efforts to conserve this property as it ensures future generations can enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities of the land, which is consistent with the vision and work of the Tillotson Trust. This offer would have provided the Trust with more than $3 million to support its charitable activities in the North Country and would ensure the 5,800 acres of land surrounding the resort are conserved.
The Attorney General has since approved the sale of the conservation easement and power line right of way to the Forest Society. Northern Pass is in the process of reviewing the Attorney General’s decision. We are disappointed for the citizens of the North Country who could have benefitted from the much needed services the additional value our offer would have provided.
The Northern Pass project today notified the Neil Tillotson Trust that it is willing to purchase the conservation easement over much of the property of “The Balsams,” if a sale of the easement to The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) doesn’t occur.
The SPNHF recently said it will not pursue the easement if it cannot also obtain the rights to a utility right-of-way easement across the property as well. In light of SPNHF’s position, and because Northern Pass is committed to the conservation of the Balsams property, we have extended an offer to purchase the conservation easement in addition to the utility easement.
In a letter to the chair of the Trust, Northern Pass said it will purchase the easement for $850,000. The offer also includes provisions of the initial offer from Northern Pass to the Trust to purchase the utility right-of-way for $2 million and provide a $200,000 payment to support medical services at the Colebrook Hospital. In total, the offer will provide more than $3 million to the Tillotson Trust for charitable purposes. If the offer is accepted, Northern Pass would then look to find an appropriate partner committed to conserving the Balsams to hold the conservation easement over the more than 5,600 acres of land.
We believe that the project’s purchase of the utility right-of-way easement can co-exist with a conservation easement over the surrounding land, and together maximize revenue to the Tillotson Trust that can be redistributed to the residents and communities in the area for essential health, social and economic services—in keeping with the Trust’s objectives.
This offer and the project’s previous request to the Attorney General regarding the sale of the utility right of way on the Balsams property to SPNHF has no impact on the completed sale of the Balsams Resort and more than 7,000 acres of land. Northern Pass is pleased that the future of the Balsams Resort is secure and that the new owners are committed to maintaining the 300 jobs and tremendous economic value the resort brings to the North Country. We look forward to working with them in the future, and wish them well in their efforts to renovate and re-open the resort.
This week we asked the Attorney General’s office to reject a portion of a proposed agreement between the Neil Tillotson Trust and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
Specifically, while we wholeheartedly support the proposed conservation easement on about 5,800 acres of land that the Trust recently sold to two area businessmen, we asked the AG to reject that portion of the proposal that grants to the Forest Society an interest in a 300 foot right of way that has been identified for possible use as a corridor for a power line.
We pointed out to the AG that the project provided to the Trust a Letter of Intent to pay the Trust $2.2 million for the right of way.
We believe that the Trust would achieve a much better deal if it granted the conservation easement and accepted our proposal that concerns only the use of the right of way.
We also pointed out that the Trust itself has reserved a permanent easement for the possible construction of transmission lines anywhere on the property, in order to connect to wind farm parcels that are owned by the Trust. (See page 2, Nr. 4. of the Deed.) These parcels are in areas that are much more visible to the public, compared to the right of way Northern Pass is interested in, and would likely have a far greater impact.