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Eversource wants to upgrade existing transmission lines at the bottom of Little Bay, but officials in Durham say they are concerned about the data the electric company has provided to the state for approval. (COURTESY)

Durham officials concerned about Eversource’s proposed Seacoast Reliability Project


DURHAM — Officials in Durham say they are not satisfied with Eversource’s prefiled testimony and reports to the state’s Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) for the Seacoast Reliability Project.

Eversource wants to upgrade its 13-mile distribution corridor between Madbury and Portsmouth. The $70 million project has been deemed necessary by the company because residential and commercial development in the area is threatening to overwhelm existing transmission lines.

Durham officials take issue with Eversource’s plans to bury three lines up to 8 feet under Little Bay’s sea bed using jet plow technology. The method uses air pressure to make sediment fluid and create a trench.

The town hired GeoInsight and Woods Hole Group to independently review Eversource’s submittals to the SEC. They determined Eversource has not provided adequate analysis of a set of variables that could impact plume dispersion and the refloatation of sediments or contaminants. When Eversource sampled the sea bed along the mile-long route on the company’s right-of-way, arsenic was found in the sediment, but the levels detected were in a range commonly observed in the bay.

“Based on the preliminary review by our consultants, given the gaps in data as well as limitations of analysis provided so far by the Applicant, it is Durham’s position that it cannot assure the residents of our community or the Seacoast that there are no unreasonable adverse ecological effects or that the impact on natural resources will be manageably limited in the Little Bay, and that unreasonable adverse effects in the worst case will not migrate up north towards the mouth of Oyster River or down south beyond the mouth of the Great Bay,” Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig said in a statement.

Kaitlyn Woods, media relations specialist for Eversource, said they are in the process of reviewing a letter Selig and the Town Council sent to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services detailing their consultant’s comments on Feb. 28.

“We are in the process of reviewing those comments and our responses will be discussed during the siting process. We do remain confident that our proposed burial of the cable is safe and appropriate, and we remain committed to working with the town and their consultants to address any concerns they may have,” Woods said.

Since Eversource plans to amend its application to include additional underground access across the Darius Frink Farm, the SEC has issued an order on the company’s motion to stay until it obtains approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Woods said they will have a better idea of what the timeline will be for the procedural schedule once they file their amendment.