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NU expects Northern Pass route to be identified this fall

By PAULA TRACY
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 31. 2012 10:03AM



MANCHESTER - Northeast Utilities investors were told Tuesday morning that it appears the Northern Pass proposed hydro-power transmission route through New Hampshire will be finalized this fall, but if not, the expected completion date of the project would move from 2016 to 2017.

Leon Olivier, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Northeast Utilities, spoke to investors in a 9 a.m. call on the progress of earnings for the second quarter of the year.

He said there will be 'extensive outreach' to more than 30 communities in New Hampshire after the route is announced.

'We want them to be partners in this process, which will bring very significant economic benefit to New Hampshire,' Olivier said.

Most of the towns along the route have voted at town meetings to oppose the project, with residents concerned about the height of the towers, which they say would mar the scenery and reduce property values.

Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec plan the 1,200-megawatt line from Quebec through New Hampshire, stretching from Pittsburg to Deerfield.

The project would use 140 miles of existing right of way from Groveton to Deerfield on Public Service of New Hampshire's existing right-of-way line, but the project still needs to find 40 miles of right of way in the northern part of the state.

Olivier said, 'We have made additional progress' on acquiring a northern right of way since the last investor call in the spring.

The project may file for federal review before the Department of Energy in the fourth quarter, he said, and construction could start in the second half of 2014.

If the 40-mile northern route is not announced in the third quarter, the expected completion date might move to early 2017, he said.

So far this year, NU has invested $52 million in the project and by the end of year expects to spend $72 million.

Officials said they were down to 'relatively few property owners,' each with individual needs, who are becoming aware of 'marketplace change,' but the company remains optimistic.

Olivier said Hydro-Quebec believes it can secure the right of way needed on the Canadian side of the border to allow for the project to move forward in the existing timeframe.

- ptracy@unionleader.com


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