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'Northern Trespass' talk at film hosted by NBA player Matt Bonner

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 25. 2013 8:42PM
John and Cindy-Lou Amey, from Pittsburg, left, were in the movie, in a full theatre while a Q&A session goes on, during the screening for "Northern Trespass", at the Red River Theatre, in Concord, on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
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CONCORD — Perhaps buoyed by the support and participation of NBA player and local basketball standout Matt Bonner, a screening of "Northern Trespass," a film critical of the controversial Northern Pass project, sold out Wednesday night at Red River Theatre.

Produced on a shoestring budget over the course of two years by volunteer amateur filmmakers Jan Marvel and Michelle Vaughn of Thornton, the movie seeks to highlight the proposed electricity transmission project's impact on scenic views, health, property values and jobs.

"The Northern Pass has been using huge amounts of money to ram this transmission project, which is unneeded, down our throats," Marvel said before the screening. "We find it to be a very destructive idea."

Northern Pass, a collaboration between Public Service of New Hampshire's parent company, Northeast Utilities, NStar and Hydro-Quebec, has proposed building an 180-mile-long transmission line from the Canadian border at Pittsburg to Deerfield. The project would bring 1,200 megawatts of power to the New England market.

The project would mostly use existing rights-of-way, but also needs to identify several miles of new corridors for the lines. The proposal, which includes the construction of transmission towers as high as 90 feet, has had opposition almost since it was announced.

Bonner, who was born and grew up in Concord, said he decided to support the film and voice his opposition to the project because he wants to protect the state he still calls home. Bonner, a power forward for the San Antonio Spurs, hosted a question-and-answer forum with Marvel, Vaughn and fellow Northern Pass opponent David Dobbins after the screening and said he was sold on "Northern Trespass" after learning that Marvel and Vaughn accepted no payment for making it.

"I love my home state and I want to stick up for it," Bonner said. "I don't want people taking advantage of it for money.

"And ultimately, I want to increase awareness. Whether you're for it or against it, you're free to draw your own conclusions. The important thing is that people are aware of it because it's something that will affect everybody," he said.

The film, which opens with images of New Hampshire's natural attractions interspersed with scenes of power lines buzzing and Northern Pass opponents protesting the proposal, spans two years and features interviews with people who would be affected by the project.

It also shows scenes of the results of previous projects by Hydro-Quebec, such as emptied rivers and accusations of increased mercury in fish, and makes the argument that the transmission lines have links to an increased risk of cancer in adults and leukemia in children.

The film also tried to shoot holes in the claim made by Northern Pass that the project would bring more than 1,000 jobs to the state, with interview subjects saying the jobs would be highly technical, highly skilled positions that would likely go to out-of-state contractors rather than New Hampshire residents.

Chris Schadler of Webster said she thought the filmmakers successfully portrayed their opposition to the project without going overboard.

"It hit the nail on the head," she said. "It didn't shy away from the truth. And it was not an extremist position."

David Nesbitt, who also lives in Webster, said he was impressed that the film delved into the more difficult issues, such as safety and economic concerns, rather than just focusing on scenic views.

"It really raises issues that people don't really talk about, like the health issues and the promise of jobs," he said.

Martin Murray, Northern Pass project spokesman, called the information in the video "inaccurate and outdated."

"It is heavily focused on the false threat of eminent domain, which has been addressed by state law for over a year now," Murray said in a statement. "The current proposed route was created by working with willing landowners. The producers surely are aware of the facts surrounding this issue, yet chose to mislead the public."

He added: "New Hampshire is ready to debate this project on its merits, through honest debate. Unfortunately, this video only serves to distort the truth and mislead the public."

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