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In Plymouth, a battle won, but few believe Northern Pass is finished

Sunday News Correspondent

February 03. 2018 11:09PM
Plymouth residents have vehemently opposed plans by Northern Pass to bury a stretch of transmission lines along Main Street, maintaining the lengthy construction window would be the death knell for many local merchants. (Bea Lewis/Sunday News Correspondent)

PLYMOUTH - As ground-zero of the grassroots efforts to scuttle Northern Pass, this town is in disbelief after a state committee pulled the plug on the hydroelectric project.

"I'm still in shock," said Scott Biederman, who owns a delicatessen and market that has been a fixture on Main Street for 41 years.

On Friday, someone had scrawled "The local people always have the final say!" atop a printed yellow "Stop Northern Pass" sign displayed in the front window.

But Biederman, like many other residents in this college town of 7,000, characterizes Thursday's 7-0 vote by the Site Evaluation Committee as winning a battle, not the war.

"They've got a lot of money and a lot of lawyers. I haven't gone to any parties yet," said Biederman.

During the seven years this White Mountains community has spent opposing Northern Pass, Biederman said, his phone regularly buzzes alerting him to emails and text messages about rallies, protests, hearing dates and other updates on the proposal. Now his phone has gone silent.

The speed with which the decision was rendered, Biederman said, "Should send a clear message to Northern Pass that they have some homework or horse trading to do. There was no transparency; that was my whole issue all along."

"I just hope it's not going to surface again," he said.

"I'm cautiously optimistic. I didn't think it would happen this fast," said Steven Woodbury while enjoying a beer at the Lucky Dog Tavern.

"I'm ever hopeful I won't have to go lie down in front of any bulldozers heading to Main Street," he added.

Woodbury, a resident of Plymouth who also owns property in Clarksville, said the high-tower project would be a blight on the scenic landscape of the North Country.

Plans for the transmission line to be buried beneath the heart of Plymouth's business district, Woodbury said, would have fatal consequences for some merchants.

Last year, he was among the 200 to 300 local residents who held signs opposing Northern Pass and followed the SEC members as they toured the proposed route.

"I felt it was a done deal. I was surprised," Woodbury said of the SEC's decision.

But like Biederman, Woodbury said he thought it was premature to be celebrating.

"I'm not sure that we're done yet. They have deep pockets and a lot of lawyers. I don't think it is a complete win just yet."

Down the street at Dressers Unlimited, a boutique that sells new clothing and vintage wooden furniture, owner Carol Dunn was buoyed by news that the project's application had been rejected.

"I think it's awesome," said Dunn. "I could never understand their plan to dig up Main Street. It made no sense."

Last week, Plymouth residents largely voted in favor of adopting a local ordinance targeted at preventing Northern Pass from being able to build within its borders.

During the special town meeting, Richard Hage, who helped spearhead the development of the Rights-Based Ordinance, told residents that if it were adopted and Northern Pass began digging, selectmen would have the authority to invoke police powers and direct local law enforcement officers to impound construction equipment.

Courts Public Safety Business Energy Real estate Environment Health Tourism Politics Technology Plymouth


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