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Northern Pass: Deerfield takes a hard look

Union Leader Correspondent

July 05. 2011 10:47PM

DEERFIELD - An analysis on the local impacts of the proposed Northern Pass project says it will cause fewer negative effects than feared.

The financial impacts of Northern Pass in Deerfield would not be 'anywhere near' the impact of the tornado damage of 2008, which cost the town $1,921,530 in lost property value, the analysis concluded.

Selectmen asked the town's assessing office and contracted engineering firm, Avitar Associates, to estimate how the proposed hydroelectric transmission lines would affect property values and tax revenue. It found that only six properties would be 'directly impacted' while another 57 would be marginally affected.

'We wanted to do a cost-benefit analysis,' Deerfield Town Administrator Leslie Boswak said. 'I think misinformation has been a huge part of this (issue).'

Selectmen and the study committee were presented with the analysis Tuesday.

'Any comment on it now is premature,' Selectman John Reagan said.

The potential for an additional $18.25 million in assessed property value from the 7.3 miles of transmission lines proposed for Deerfield comes to about $381,500 in additional tax revenue annually, Boswak said.

'We will not have the potential for commercial and industrial expansion of the tax base to this degree in the foreseeable future,'

Boswak said. 'It's a question of which way do you go? Some people don't want it. Some people think it makes sense.'

Boswak said the town's analysis was done over the past two weeks after selectmen formed a committee of residents specifically to examine the potential local impacts of Northern Pass, a controversial $1 billion project that would bring hydroelectric power from the town of Pittsburg at the Canadian boarder via transmission lines 180 miles south to Deerfield.

Northern Pass is a joint venture project of Hydro-Quebec, NStar and Northeast Utilities, which is the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire.

Boswak said selectmen are neither for nor against the project. But they felt the information being circulated in recent months has been overwhelmingly negative.

'We're not hearing any proponents for it,' she said.

Boswak said one of the unknown effects in Deerfield is how tall the transmission lines will be, and how that will affect taxes. The towers could run between 85 and 115 feet tall throughout the state.

As of now, the project's preferred route would take 7.3 miles of transmission lines through Deerfield using existing rights-of-way, plus

5.3 miles of widened rights-of-way. A preliminary alternative route would use 2.1 miles of new right-of-ways and .6 miles of existing rights-of-way.

Reagan said that of the six directly affected homes along the preferred route, four of them are on Haynes Road.

Last April, more than 100 people filled the Deerfield Community School to listen to presentations by groups opposing Northern Pass, including the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Controversy has been raging, particularly in the North Country, where many fear losing scenic views when the transmission lines are erected.

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