In last week’s Colebrook Chronicle, Coos County Treasurer Fred King detailed his thoughts on the Northern Pass project, our revised route in the North Country, and the recently announced Jobs Creation fund.
From Mr. King’s letter…
“…a positive reaction from the utility has been the proposal to provide a substantial contribution to communities in Coos County impacted by the new transmission line by offering to fund economic development with millions of their dollars. Some call this a bribe. I prefer to think that PSNH, as they looked at the economy in Coos County, at last recognized that there was a need for assistance for our communities in order to restore our job base.”
Mr. King also discussed his thoughts on hydropower as part of our future energy portfolio…
“…if there were no hydro generation on the Connecticut River there would not have been a need for a First Connecticut Lake or Lake Francis in Pittsburg or a Lake Umbagog in Errol to store water until it is needed by downstream power producers. In this case it is Canadians who have developed a huge, well-planned facility that has expansion capability. So what should we do as we consider this proposal to bring hydro power from Canada to southern New England through or North Country?
We must first remember that our Seabrook nuclear plant, like the one in Vermont, has a limited life expectancy, coal as a fuel is very unpopular and the natural gas supply is limited. However, water will run downhill forever.”
The full letter can be viewed on page 23 of the most recent issue of the Colebrook Chronicle.
Mr. King’s letter follows a recent post detailing several other positive letters to the editor we’ve been seeing in newspapers around the state.
We’ve updated our schedule of community open houses with additional meetings along the project’s proposed route. Newly scheduled open houses include:
Concord & Canterbury – Wednesday September 4th
172 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301
Bethlehem, Dalton, Whitefield & Lancaster – Tuesday September 10th
Cabot Inn & Suites
200 Portland Street / Route 2
Lancaster, NH 03584
Easton, Lincoln, & Sugar Hill – Wednesday September 11th
The Mountain Club on Loon
90 Loon Mountain Road
Lincoln, NH 03251
Campton, Thornton & Woodstock – Tuesday September 17th
Campton Days Inn
1513 Daniel Webster Highway
Campton, NH 03223
No RSVP is required and residents can drop by anytime from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.
This week we hosted two more open houses in the North Country, adding to a total of five over the past three weeks. To date, open houses have been held for the communities of Millsfield, Dixville, Stark, Dummer, Stewartstown, Clarksville, Pittsburg, and Groveton.
Open houses are part of the project’s commitment to working with communities and residents on answering and addressing questions about the project. At each event local residents are able to speak one-on-one with project representatives, including engineers and environmental experts, view visual simulations, and ask questions about everything from structure design to line location.
Our goal throughout this process is to work with every town’s citizens to understand their issues, collect feedback on our proposal, and to make every effort to reach agreement on how best to move forward.
Last week the project held the first in a series of Northern Pass community open house events. These open houses are being held to provide residents and landowners with the opportunity to ask questions and share feedback in a personal, one-on-one environment with project representatives. These events are a voluntary effort by the project to provide meaningful opportunities for dialogue between residents and landowners and Northern Pass.
The format of each open house features a series of information booths on different topics, including the construction process, permitting requirements, environmental considerations, and project benefits. Each booth is staffed by project representatives with expertise in that specific subject area. For example, in the “My Community” booth project engineers (using interactive maps) are available to share with landowners structure location and height information specific to their property.
For a more detailed look inside a Northern Pass open house, we’ve posted a video walk-though of the event held last week in Millsfield. We’d like to thank the 60+ residents and landowners of Millsfield and Dixville who attended the event and we appreciate their feedback on how the project can better address their concerns. Direct feedback from local residents is invaluable to the project and greatly helps our efforts to further refine and improve our design and ensure that our proposal is the best possible project for New Hampshire.
Although these events are not a requirement of the permitting process, the project is committed to holding open house events along the entire length of its proposed route. Each open house will have information and data, like maps and tax benefits numbers, tailored to the communities that event is serving. While any interested member of the public is welcome to attend any open house, priority at each event will go to serving local residents and landowners first. Creating an open, comfortable environment at these events is critical and the project is focused on ensuring that attendees get the information they need in a welcoming setting. Attendees are encouraged to complete comment cards to ensure that all their thoughts, feedback and questions are captured and can be responded to by project representatives.
The current schedule of open houses is posted on our website and will be updated soon with additional dates and locations of future events.
Detailed maps for the new proposed Northern Pass route are now available on our website. The maps present an aerial view, in approximately one-mile sections, of the entire route. Links to the maps can be found by going to the “In My Town” section of our website and clicking on the individual town pages. Look for the detailed project information by clicking the hyperlink map that is closest to your home.
These new maps offer great detail for landowners interested in learning more about the proposed design of the route and how it relates to their individual property, including:
Please note: structure heights and locations displayed on the detailed maps are subject to change based on the final design of the process and input received from our community and landowner outreach efforts.
Project representatives, including engineers, will be available to review these maps with landowners at our upcoming open house meetings and to collect their feedback and input on our proposed design. Representatives are also available to visit with landowners at their property to discuss the details of our proposal and answer questions.
Each map includes a guide on the various symbols and graphics it contains. Please feel free to contact us with any questions at 1-800-286-7305.
The project has scheduled the first of several community open house meetings in the North Country. These events will give local officials and residents an opportunity to speak to project representatives, including engineers and environmental experts, view visual simulations, and ask questions about everything from structure design to line location. These open house meetings are part of the project’s commitment to working with communities and residents on answering and addressing questions about the project. The project’s goal throughout this process is to work with every town’s citizens to understand their issues, and to make every effort to reach agreement on how best to move forward.
Initial Open House Schedule:
Millsfield & Dixville – Monday, August 5th – Log Haven Restaurant
Log Haven Restaurant & Lounge
Millsfield, NH 03579
Stewartstown & Clarksville – Wednesday, August 14th – The Spa
The Spa Restaurant
869 Washington Street
West Stewartstown, NH 03576
Pittsburg – Tuesday, August 20th – United Methodist Church
Farnham United Methodist Church
US Route 3
Pittsburg, NH 03592
Each open house will run from 5:30 pm to 8 pm and no RSVP is required.
Local officials and residents are encouraged to attend the open house for their specific community as some information and communications materials will change at each event based on the project’s design in that area.
We’ll be adding to this list soon and will share the details for additional open houses along the proposed route of the project. Details for future open houses will be posted on the project journal and at www.northernpass.us.
HOOKSETT, N.H. – June 27, 2013 – The Northern Pass project, a proposed transmission line carrying low-cost renewable hydroelectric power to New Hampshire and New England, today proposed an improved route in the northernmost section of the project area. The $1.4 billion project is subject to a comprehensive state and federal public permitting process and is expected to be operational by mid–2017. Customers will not pay any of the costs associated with the project as it will be financed by its developers.
The new proposal includes an improved route, partially underground, through New Hampshire’s North Country, and was developed in response to concerns about potential visual impacts and property rights. “Over the past two years, we’ve met with landowners, citizens, key stakeholders, and public officials from across New Hampshire in an effort to better understand their concerns with our original proposal,” said Gary Long, president and COO of Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), a subsidiary of the project’s parent company, Northeast Utilities. “We have worked hard to develop a new proposal that is better for New Hampshire and responsive to feedback we’ve received.”
With the new route proposal in place, the project team plans to increase its community outreach efforts in the weeks and months ahead as the federal and state permitting processes continue in earnest. An amendment to the Presidential Permit application will soon be filed with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), followed by a filing in 2014 with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, which oversees the rigorous state permitting process.
The new proposed North Country route includes 32.25 miles of new right-of-way, and partial underground construction within developed public transportation corridors, and follows a more easterly path than the original proposal submitted in 2010. The route has been strategically placed in order to minimize potential visual impacts. Northern Pass is seeking to locate the remaining 147 miles of the 187-mile project on PSNH’s existing rights-of-way, where transmission and distribution lines are located today.
The overhead portions of the line in the North Country will be more remote, and more shielded from view by taking advantage of forested buffers between the line and populated areas. And, as part of ongoing efforts to refine and improve the project, a revised design reduces structure heights from a maximum structure height of 135 feet to a most common height of between 85 to 95 feet in the White Mountain National Forest, as well as elsewhere along the direct current portion of the line that runs from the Canadian border to Franklin. Moreover, the project has also redesigned a 17-mile section of the proposed alternating current line located in existing rights-of-way from Franklin to Concord in an effort to reduce structure heights. This redesign reduces the most common structure heights along this section to 80 feet and means 92 percent of structures will be 100 feet or less, where previously only 51 percent of structures were 100 feet or less.
Working with willing landowners in the North Country, the project was able to acquire land or easements conducive to minimizing visual impacts of the line. “The new, overhead portion of the route is an improvement over the original route because it features much larger, isolated properties, and is located in less populated areas,” Long noted. “It will be far less visible to the public. In fact, the portion of the route requiring overhead lines placed in a new right-of-way will use 83 percent fewer properties than the original proposal and will be 70 percent less populated than the original proposal.”
As part of the New Hampshire permitting process, the project team will submit a visual impact assessment. In addition, the U.S. DOE will undertake its own independent visual impact assessment.
The new North Country route includes two sections of underground construction. A 2,300 foot section of underground is proposed for the Route 3 crossing in Pittsburg, and a 7.50-mile section is proposed within town and state roads through portions of Stewartstown and Clarksville. The project plans to make these major investments in underground construction in order to address public feedback while completing a vastly improved route in the North Country.
“We understand the interest in burying the lines as a way to avoid potential visual impacts, and we believe that these underground sections, combined with the more remote overhead portions of the route, will go a long way toward addressing those concerns,” added Long. “We have considered many route options, and this proposal is a compromise. It allows us to complete our route, begin the rigorous public permitting process, while incorporating partial underground. We look forward to working closely with the towns and neighbors along the entire route. We understand that review of potential view impacts will take place as part of the state and federal permitting process, and we trust this will yield the best possible project for New Hampshire.” With the addition of the underground section, more than 83 percent of the entire route now involves either underground technology or the use of existing rights-of-way.
The project is expected to reduce New Hampshire’s annual energy costs by $20 to $35 million (regional savings of $200 to $300 million) by displacing costlier fossil fuel generation sources that would otherwise be needed to meet regional demand. The environmental benefits will also be significant, since the project will reduce regional carbon emissions by up to five million tons per year—equivalent to eliminating the annual emissions of nearly 900,000 cars. That is about 200,000 more cars than are currently registered in New Hampshire
An additional key benefit of the project is the significant tax impact it will have on local communities, as the project is expected to generate about $28 million in new property taxes annually. The final design and cost of the project will drive the actual taxes, and the project team will work with local communities to provide them with accurate information on what revenue they can each expect from the project.
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce cited reduced energy costs, improved regional fuel diversity, and the environmental benefits of renewable energy as key drivers in its support of the project. “The clean, renewable energy delivered by Northern Pass will provide New Hampshire with fuel diversity at a time when our region is becoming more and more dependent on natural gas, the price of which will likely not always be so low,” said Robin Comstock, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. “Diversity, which brings stability, is good for business.” The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, which also endorsed Northern Pass, cited the project’s magnitude as evidence that it will have a positive impact on reducing energy costs. “Northern Pass is the largest and most significant energy project under consideration, not only here in New Hampshire, but also across New England,” noted Chris Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. “It will play an integral role in larger efforts to control energy costs and provide more price stability in the future.”
On the economic front, the project will create 1,200 New Hampshire jobs per year during its construction period, and due to the effects of lower energy costs on the economy, an additional 200 jobs will be created each year after the line is in operation. “At a time when our economy is struggling and in need of a boost, Northern Pass will create hundreds of in-state jobs with good wages and benefits,” said Joe Casey, president of the New Hampshire State Building and Construction Trades Council. “The economic benefits of this project for communities, workers, and businesses are undeniable.”
The project will soon submit an amended application to the U.S. DOE that will explain the new route and continue the rigorous federal review process, including opportunities for public input. In 2014, a permit application will be filed with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee which will initiate a separate permitting process with further opportunities for public input.
In addition, Northern Pass will increase its community outreach efforts in the weeks and months ahead. “We are looking forward to working with the State, and all its citizens. As part of that commitment, we will hold a series of open house events in towns near and along the line,” said Long. “The public will have opportunities to speak to project engineers and environmental experts, view visual simulations, and ask questions about everything from structure design to line location,” Long added. “As we move forward, I’m asking those who have previously opposed this project to be open to working with us to address concerns. Through collaboration, Northern Pass can improve our state’s economic and energy future while ensuring New Hampshire’s unique quality of life for decades to come.”
Over the past several weeks there has been a steady stream of news reports from across New England regarding the region’s over-reliance on natural gas and the serious challenges it caused the electric grid this winter.
We share the concerns that ISO-New England and others have expressed. With our over-reliance on natural gas now threatening the reliability of the region’s energy grid, the need for the Northern Pass project is clear, and we are working hard to advance the project so that it will help to address this critical issue.
The project’s top priorities in developing a new route have and continue to be to bring forth the best proposal for New Hampshire, and to address the concerns raised with our first routing proposal regarding the project’s potential effect on views. Our work to achieve these goals continues.
Although we have identified a new route which meets our project requirements, we believe it is in the best of interest of landowners, communities, and all stakeholders for us to continue to build on the details of this proposal and to take the time now to make some additional refinements before we begin the formal public review processes at both the state and federal levels.
It is clear now, more than ever, that the region needs new sources of clean, low cost power to diversify our power supply and secure our energy future. The Northern Pass will help to provide that energy diversity, while creating new jobs and tax revenue for New Hampshire – all at no cost to customers.
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.
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.
Northeast Utilities (NU), the parent company of Northern Pass Transmission LLC, today announced that the project has acquired, or has under agreement, about 99 percent of the property necessary to announce a new proposed route; and, that the project team expects to amend its permit application at the U.S. Department of Energy by the end of the year and announce a new proposed route in the North Country.