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November 22. 2012 10:48PM

Northern Pass gains another 20 miles of right-of-way for towers

CONCORD - Developers of the Northern Pass electricity project said this week they have cut a deal for 20 miles of needed right-of-way from Dixville Peak toward Stark in Coos County.

Public Service of New Hampshire President Gary Long called the leasing of Wagner Woodlands land a huge step for the project that would deliver electricity from Hydro-Quebec through New Hampshire and into the New England power grid.

"This 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,'' Long said in a statement.

"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.''

The Society for the Protection of NH Forests, which had hoped to strike its own deal for the Wagner land, maintains that it can still block the 180-mile high-power transmission project. Forest Society spokesman Jack Savage said it is seeing more money coming in to preserve private land in the Stewartstown area.

Savage acknowledged, however, that the society had failed to meet its self-imposed deadline to raise $2.5 million for the blocking effort. He said it was a "somewhat arbitrary deadline of the end of October." It has raised about $1 million to date.

The Society used some of that money to buy an easement on a Balsams tract of more than 5,000 acres, which abuts the land managed by Wagner Woodlands.

The Lyme-based Wagner company works on behalf of its client and property owner, Bayroot, a timber management organization. It essentially funds pensions by timbering.

Tom Colgan, Wagner's president and chief executive officer, said the Northern Pass complements its forest management and that Wagner is pleased to help bring to the region "a major new source of clean and renewable energy."

No financial information was offered about the deal, which was posted on the Northern Pass website Tuesday.

The $1.2 billion project to bring 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectricity into the New England grid is proposed by PSNH parent Northeast Utilities. It would transmit power on 140 miles of existing right-of-way but needs to link together 40 miles of North Country real estate to connect with the existing infrastructure in Groveton.

Savage of the Forest Society says regulators consider it a private transmission development not necessary for the New England grid and he questions the "clean'' claim because of the flooding of Canadian lands to develop the hydro power.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.


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