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N. Pass rep questioned on whether project will affect scenic resources

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 13. 2017 12:13AM

CONCORD — A Northern Pass expert who concluded the proposed transmission project would have no “noticeable effect” on the public enjoying hundreds of scenic resources was questioned Tuesday on whether he supplied a true picture of the project’s visual impact.

“Don’t you believe that it’s a little misleading to the committee here to provide a very particular photo (simulation) that doesn’t show where the project is most visible,” asked attorney Steven Whitley during a hearing before the state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC).

Whitley questioned a photo simulation and caption in submitted documents that showed a stand of trees blocking most if not all of the possible transmission lines around Deerfield Center Community Church. Project opponents had other photo simulations showing that the proposed lines would be more visible around there.

“Again, we’re looking at the entirety of the area and I think the question before the SEC is what effect will it have on the area itself, not on a specific location within it,” said Terrence DeWan, principal and founder of a landscape architecture and planning firm in Yarmouth, Maine.

“You’re correct, and if they’re going to make that conclusion don’t you think they would want to know where in the resource the project is most visible,” Whitley said of Deerfield Center, considered a scenic resource and historic district.

“That may be a consideration of theirs,” DeWan said. “This is one of the places that they visited on their field trip.”

The proposed $1.6 billion project, which runs through more than 30 communities, needs several state and federal approvals before it can start operating by late 2020. The route runs from Pittsburg to Deerfield and includes 60 miles of buried lines. The Site Evaluation Committee said it hopes to issue a verbal decision by late February and a written one by late March.

Martin Honigberg, the committee’s presiding officer, released an order Tuesday looking to reduce the amount of friendly cross-examination, which normally involves questioning people with an adverse view, by having people state their intentions in advance about upcoming witnesses. He said something must be done “to ensure that the proceedings are not bogged down by unnecessary and inefficient friendly cross-examination.”

DeWan said he and others who worked on his report didn’t consult town officials or the Appalachian Mountain Club for advice. They relied on town websites, town master plans, websites and other resources to develop a potential list before making site visits.

“The presence of the transmission structures, conductors, cleared corridor, converter terminal, substations, transition stations, and other project components within the viewshed of the scenic resources along the proposed corridor will not have a noticeable effect on the public’s continued use and enjoyment of the scenic resources,” DeWan concluded in his report submitted to the committee.

None of the 525 scenic resources identified within 3 miles of the proposed routes had overall visual impacts that were classified as “high,” according to DeWan.

“(B)ased on the totality of our analysis, it is our opinion that NPT will not create an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics,” DeWan wrote.

Whitley, who represents Deerfield and several other towns, also quizzed experts about Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham. He asked whether people would be deterred from visiting if some could see Northern Pass transmission lines and an existing substation that would need to be upgraded.

“There are no indications it will have any effect whatsoever,” DeWan said.

“People who are up there now see an existing substation; they see the existing transmission lines,” he said. “In corridors, they can see other forms of human development in the area.”

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