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 full NH Senate on June 2 voted 14 – 10 to “re-refer” HB648, a bill which sought to halt The Northern Pass by prohibiting the possible use of eminent domain in siting the project.
We opposed the bill, as did a number of business and labor groups. Additionally, newspaper editorials argued against the bill.
The re-referral allows the project to continue to work toward establishing a route that has the support of property owners. As a reminder, a new right-of-way is necessary in an area from Groveton north to the Quebec border. From Groveton south to Deerfield, we have proposed that the project be sited within rights-of-way where power lines already exist.
Landowner Susan Schibanoff recently sent a letter to PSNH President Gary Long questioning our recent announcement on how The Northern Pass might assist in the effort to bring broadband technology to areas of the state that are currently without it.
Here’s Gary’s response:
Thank you for your e-mail concerning the enhancement of broadband services in northern New Hampshire. The quote you cited from the press reports is accurate and is a good summary of PSNH’s view on the matter. For some time now the State of New Hampshire and the communities in northern New Hampshire have had a strong interest in bringing broadband services to that area of the state. PSNH has engaged experts to look into the potential to fulfill this need and what role, if any, PSNH could play. We will await the results of this research from these experts before coming to any conclusions or proposals.
I was interested in your own comment; “As landowners and residents in a town with no broadband or cable, we know first-hand the importance of affordable access for all in both central and northern New Hampshire. We understand that solutions that do not violate private property rights are close to completion for northern New Hampshire.” It would be very helpful to us if you could provide additional comments to expand on your thinking here. It seems to me that you are interested in receiving broadband service and that you do not currently have such services. Perhaps we have the same goal in mind. Also, if there is already a confirmed project to bring to you broadband services then there may be no need for assistance from PSNH. It would be helpful if you could describe further those solutions which “are close to completion for northern New Hampshire,” as that information could be included in the research that our consultants are performing.
We do understand that there are many questions regarding how The Northern Pass could help solve the challenge of providing New Hampshire with additional broadband services. We look forward to the continuing conversation that will allow your question regarding easements, and others, to be addressed.
Thank you in advance for any additional information you can provide, and for your continued interest.
We were saddened today to see a Letter to the Editor (see below) to the Concord Monitor from an 8-year-old boy who apparently has been told that his school teacher will lose his home if The Northern Pass project is completed.
It’s not true.
The project as proposed will use an existing right of way in the area, with no expansion. The teacher’s home is not threatened.
It is truly unfortunate that a youngster is experiencing anxiousness based on inaccurate information.
Any landowner with questions regarding an existing right of way and their property is encouraged to contact at “info @ northernpass dot us” or by calling 1-800-286-7305 .
Text of Letter to the Editor:
Connor Raposo, Franklin
To Gov. John Lynch: My name is Connor. I am 8 years old and a student at Sant Bani School. I would like to speak to you about the Northern Pass Project. I think this is bad for New Hampshire because of what it will do to our land and trees. It could also kill the animals while clearing the way for the power lines.
I do not think it is right to take away people’s home or land. They work hard for it. My teacher Sam actually built his house, and it took him three years. I do not want him or anyone else to lose their homes, but Sam will if this project happens.
Please say no to the Northern Pass project.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests announced yesterday that it opposes the Northern Pass project “…as currently proposed.”
It’s certainly appropriate that an organization like the Society takes an interest in a project as significant as this and, frankly, we’d be surprised if it did not. What’s ironic, though, is that the Northern Pass has come about directly in response to concerns by the Society and other organizations and individuals who have called for more renewable energy and less fossil-fuel energy.
The Northern Pass can produce those results, but only by connecting to a significant source of renewable energy. There is the challenge. In identifying a preliminary preferred route for the new transmission line, project engineers sought to avoid completely or minimize impact with protected and conserved properties.
It hasn’t been easy. By the Society’s reckoning, it holds easements or owns outright almost 24-thousand acres of property in the towns along the project route. By avoiding one property another is impacted – and so on.
Fortunately, the Society and other interested parties appear open to fully discussing our shared goals and how best to achieve them. That opportunity will exist as part of the comprehensive permitting process that is ahead.