Eversource: Hundreds of potential routes considered for Northern PassBy MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 01. 2017 8:28PM
CONCORD — Northern Pass considered hundreds of potential routes before settling on the current 192-mile route through more than 30 communities , an Eversource executive testified Thursday.
“More than 500 options were looked at, potential routes for this project,” said Kenneth Bowes, Eversource’s vice president of engineering, told the state Site Evaluation Committee, which is considering the project.
“You’re the first person and I’ve been up here now, I think, for seven days that’s asked about the criteria for routing,” Bowes said when questioned. “There’s a whole list of criteria we use for routing.”
Among the criteria considered were the length of the line, number of homes near the right-of-way, public facilities within 500 feet, archaeological sites, scenic byways and habitat found within 1,000 feet, Bowes said.
Let the committee consider those other potential routes, said Jack Savage, a vocal project critic with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
“Then they should put those alternatives forward at the SEC to allow the process to determine what route, if any, is best for New Hampshire instead of what’s best for Hydro-Quebec’s sizable wallet,” Savage said by email.
Hydro-Quebec would use the line to move hydropower from Quebec into New England.
The proposed $1.6 billion project needs several state and federal approvals before it can start operating in late 2019 or early 2020. Project officials hope to garner all the necessary approvals by the end of this year.
The route runs from Pittsburg to Deerfield and includes 60 miles of buried lines.
Meanwhile, Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said installing new structures and relocating existing ones could potentially impact wild lupine plants, which attract Karner blue butterflies, an endangered species.
“Any impact to Karner blue habitat will be compensated for through the restoration of the corridor, post-construction, and the donation of a 7-acre parcel as additional protected habitat for the Karner blue,” Murray said. “The parcel is located about 1,000 feet from an existing 28-acre conservation easement,” in Concord and Pembroke that the butterflies populate.
The state Department of Environmental Services has accepted the plan, Murray said.
Jo Anne Bradbury, a Deerfield property owner and intervenor, repeatedly sought assurances that a tower near a Deerfield vernal pool would get moved further away from what she considered a sensitive area.
Vernal pools typically are temporary pools that “provide critical habitat for certain wildlife to breed and complete their life cycle,” according to the state DES website.
Bowes said it might happen, but at first he wouldn’t commit. Bradbury then addressed the construction panel of Northern Pass witnesses that included Bowes.
“You got a lot of education up there. You guys are very smart; we all know that. You have made it clear that you’re very good at what you do,” she said. “Can you give us a commitment that you will move the tower away from this vernal pool?”