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February 07. 2013 10:58PM

Northern Pass to cross Route 3?

The high-voltage Northern Pass transmission line will likely have to cross Route 3, according to an executive councilor who said New Hampshire should use that need to force changes in the controversial project.

Executive Councilor Raymond Burton mentioned the potential crossing Wednesday, when he spoke to Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement during a meeting of the Executive Council, Burton said. Clement said no "commissioner-level" requests by Northern Pass have landed on his desk, Burton said.

But Burton said one of the project's main opponents, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, said blocking action will force Northern Pass to cross Route 3 somewhere between Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown.

"I want to hear the proposal," said Burton, who represents the North? Country, which would host the proposed transmission line.

"If this company wants that line so bad, and the only way they can get it is along state-owned highways, railroads and riverbeds, then they can bury it and pay us the rent," Burton said. "We'll put it (payments) to good use."

But a spokesman for the $1.1 billion Northern Pass project and even a state official cautioned against speculation of a windfall if Northern Pass must pass over or under state land.

And Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said a process exists for utilities to obtain approvals to use state land - the non-political Site Evaluation Committee. Lately, it has been working on wind power projects, Murray said.

"If we need any state approvals, whether it's for crossing a state highway or other property, that will be an issue that will have to be discussed and decided by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee," Murray said.

The purpose of the Site Evaluation Committee, Northern Pass says on its website, is to prevent delays in energy projects and to decide all environmental, economic, and technical issues in an integrated fashion.

According to previous Northern Pass statements, the transmission line route should have been disclosed by now. Murray said Northern Pass hopes to announce route details in the "near future."

In the meantime, he would not say whether a route involves public properties. He noted that the previous route involved several road crossings.

Marc Goldberg, spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan, said Hassan has not heard from Northern Pass about the possibility that the new route will need to use state roads or lands. Nor does the governor's office have any idea what that would mean for the state, he said.

"Governor Hassan believes that we must protect the scenic views of the North Country and has made it clear that she opposes the first Northern Pass proposal. The governor feels Northern Pass should listen to the concerns of the potentially affected communities and that burying power lines would be a more appropriate approach," Goldberg said.

Bill Boynton, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Thursday that he could not say for certain what kind of arrangement Northern Pass would have to make to cross a road or use a highway easement.

He provided an application that companies use for small projects. It requires a detailed explanation of the project, a $500 check, review by a legislative committee and approval by the Governor and Executive Council.

He said the Turnkey Landfill pays an annual fee to use the right-of-way along the Spaulding Turnpike to deliver gas to the University of New Hampshire.



mhayward@unionleader.com


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