Recent media reports have focused on a lawsuit filed against the project and PSNH by the ownership of the Owl’s Nest Golf Club and Resort in Campton. The Owl’s Nest owners allege that the announcement of the Northern Pass proposal has adversely impacted the resort’s real estate sales. We feel it’s important to set the record straight.
PSNH has a long history of working successfully with neighbors along its rights-of-way on agreements that allow them to use the property for activities that do not affect the transmission or delivery of electricity. We believe that existing power line rights-of-way can coexist, as they have for many decades, with neighboring homes and businesses, including golf courses. PSNH owns and maintains more than 1,000 miles of transmission line rights-of-way throughout New Hampshire and has hundreds of joint use agreements along these rights-of-way with landowners, which typically allow them to make use of the rights-of-way for business or recreational purposes.
Owl’s Nest is a good example of such an arrangement. In fact, the resort’s website explains that it has been voted the best golf course in New Hampshire notwithstanding the existing transmission lines and right-of-way over the property. The power line easement and transmission lines at that location existed for decades before the Owl’s Nest’s purchase and development of the golf course.
In the years after the Owl’s Nest purchase of the property, the resort requested permission from PSNH to expand its operations and development within the power line right-of-way. PSNH agreed and worked cooperatively with Owl’s Nest on several occasions to permit the resort to use portions of the right-of-way for golf course operations, including a request to move a portion of the right-of-way in 2007 to accommodate the resort’s expansion. This 2007 agreement expressly recognized PSNH’s right to construct and install additional transmission lines, poles, towers, and related electric transmission equipment and facilities within the power line right-of-way; a provision that Owl’s Nest was fully aware of. In this lawsuit, the owners of Owl’s Nest claim that they were misled by PSNH about the terms of the 2007 agreement and its intended use. This claim is not only untrue, but is incredible in light of the clear language of the 2007 agreement.
Any allegation that the announcement of the Northern Pass project in late 2010 triggered the decline in Owl’s Nest real estate sales is simply wrong and has no basis in fact. Publicly available data clearly shows that the resort has suffered the effects of a deep recession that began well before the Northern Pass project, significantly impacting the New Hampshire real estate market. It is unfortunate that Owl’s Nest, like many others across our state and the rest of the country, has been impacted by this economic downturn.
We remain open to continuing our cooperative dialogue with Owl’s Nest to address any legitimate concerns they may have with our proposal; however, the claims now being made ignore or misstate the facts.
For our part, we are focused on continuing our landowner outreach efforts and working to address legitimate concerns with our proposal through open, thoughtful, and fact-based discussions. We are confident the project can be sited in a responsible manner that ensures New Hampshire can benefit from clean, low-cost hydro power, hundreds of jobs, and millions in new taxes Northern Pass will provide.
More than 20 Miles of Project’s Corridor Secured in Deal with Wagner Forest Management
The Coös County Democrat is reporting today that the project has finalized a lease agreement with Wagner Forest Management related to the project’s ongoing efforts to secure a new route.
We can confirm the accuracy of this report and that the project has finalized a major land agreement with Wagner as part of its efforts to optimize route options through northern New Hampshire. This agreement can support more than 20 miles of the project’s corridor through the eastern portion of northern Coös County.
PSNH President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Long offered the following comment on the agreement:
“Over the past year, we’ve made steady progress in securing the land needed for a new route by working with willing landowners. Finalizing this agreement is a huge step for the project and brings us closer to our goal of delivering clean, low-cost hydropower to the region’s energy grid while providing New Hampshire with hundreds of new jobs and millions in new tax revenue. This project not only brings significant economic benefits to our state, but will also have a tremendous environmental impact as well by removing 5 million tons of carbon from our atmosphere. I’d like to thank Wagner Forest Management for their willingness to help move this incredible project for our state and region forward, while still preserving this property for sustainable forestry.”
Wagner Forest Management, based in Lyme, NH is a forest management and investment organization that manages 2.7 million acres of forest in northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Wagner President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Colgan commented:
“We are pleased this agreement will help bring a major new source of clean, renewable energy into New England in a way that complements our core forest management business.”
With 140 miles of existing PSNH right-of-way already identified for use by the project, Northern Pass has been focused on securing land north of Groveton, NH to the Canadian border for the remaining 40 miles of the project. Following the completion of land or easement acquisition, Northern Pass will expand and intensify its community outreach efforts and file an amended Presidential Permit application with the Department of Energy. Before beginning construction, Northern Pass must complete a rigorous federal and state permitting process, including approvals from the Department of Energy, U.S. Forest Service, and New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.
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.
Some concern has been expressed regarding the potential impact of the project on neighboring properties.
The Sunday Monitor (Concord, NH) on July 24 published an article focused on this issue.
Included is a reference to this Preliminary Study, which is an examination of sales of property in Deerfield and Littleton, NH that are along existing transmission lines.
From the Preliminary Study:
“…Based on the preliminary analysis contained herein, there is no market evidence in either Deerfield or Littleton that would indicate diminution of property value due to high voltage transmission lines…”
The preliminary study results are similar to what previous studies have found, as revealed in a recent review:
“…The majority of the literature reviewed — covering 50 or more studies conducted over several decades in a variety of settings by several dozen researchers using a variety of techniques– finds that High Voltage Transmission Lines (HVTLs) have a modest or no measurable impact on property values. Many of the studies find no impact and those that do find an impact generally find that the impact is under 10% and that it diminishes quickly as distance from the transmission corridor increases…”
Perhaps the entire issue is best summed up in this passage from the review of studies:
“…The concern of potentially impacted landowners is understandable. Few would be indifferent to
the introduction of an adjacent HVTL. But the question posed in the research is not whether
people are indifferent to HVTLs, but rather—does the impact rise to the level of having a
consistent, major, measurable impact on property values? The majority of the research
examined in this literature review indicates it does not…”
The New Hampshire Union Leader today reports on an analysis by the Town of Deerfield of the potential impact of The Northern Pass on property values and tax revenue.
“An analysis on the local impact of the proposed Northern Pass project says it will cause fewer negative effects than feared…”
Union Leader July 6, 2011
Under the project as proposed, Deerfield would be the spot at which the hydro electric energy transmitted on The Northern Pass would enter the regional power pool, or grid.
New Hampshire, and all other New England states, draw energy from the regional power pool.
Energy costs for New Hampshire, as well as other New England states, will be lowered, as a result of the more economic hydro electric energy displacing more expensive energy that is produced from fossil fuels such as gas, oil, or coal.
A study by Charles River Associates estimates a reduction of wholesale energy costs in New England of $206 – $327 million annually as a result of The Northern Pass. In New Hampshire, the annual reduction in wholesale energy costs is expected to range from $23 – $36 million.
(To view the CRA study, access the project Transmission Service Agreement filing and navigate to page 651 of the .pdf.)
As reported recently in The Union Leader, a land owner in northern New Hampshire recently contracted for a property appraisal, with an eye on what change might result if The Northern Pass project were completed in the vicinity.
A copy of the appraisal report is available here.
To reiterate our initial reaction to this appraisal – we have significant concerns regarding its analysis and its credibility. To suggest, as it does, a reduction in property value of 63 – 92 percent seems to fly in the face of previously published studies and reports related to power lines and property values. (One example is here.) Curiously, the conclusion also seems at odds with the results of the appraisal’s primary and secondary research (See pages 44 – 47 of the appraisal).
The project team is currently working on the development of valuation material, which will be shared publicly when completed.
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.
Northern Pass team members continue to meet with property owners to discuss and gain access for necessary data collection along the project’s proposed preferred route. Following up on our post last week, here’s some additional information about the process:
First, a sample of our “Information for Landowners” fact sheet. Of special interest is the section of this handout called Data Collection & The Real Estate Process, which describes exactly what a landowner can expect, step by step. Project team representatives provide this fact sheet as part of an informational packet when meeting with individual landowners.
Also check out the Soil Boring Information handout that describes the process for collecting soil data, which will occur only on those properties where structure locations are proposed.
And keep in mind, as we mentioned last week, granting access to The Northern Pass project team for this data collection in no way diminishes any existing landowner rights. It simply allows for access to the property for the data collection.
Learn more about the scientists who are engaged in this data collection effort in another of our posts: Field Data Collection Underway.