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State committee says Northern Pass plans have 'potential inaccuracies'

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 19. 2017 11:01AM

CONCORD — A state committee considering Northern Pass has ordered the project’s construction panel to return to address “potential inaccuracies” in its plans.

The construction panel will be recalled since “there is new evidence indicating potential inaccuracies in the underground construction plans” filed with the Site Evaluation Committee, according to a four-page order signed by Martin Honigberg, the committee’s presiding officer.

If after the hearing, the committee “considers the plans to be insufficient, it can deny the application,” Honigberg wrote.

The construction panel is scheduled to return Sept. 29, according to Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray.

The Grafton County commissioners, intervenors in the case, asked for the construction panel to be recalled.

Grafton County Attorney Lara Joan Saffo cited minutes of a July 18 meeting among Northern Pass officials and state transportation representatives. The project was seeking “exception requests” to deviate from the requirements of the DOT Utility Accommodation Manual. The manual governs the installation and operation of underground utility structures.

The DOT, according to excerpts of the minutes, “identified that several exception requests locations had existing facilities that were incorrectly shown/described or not shown on the plans.”

Honigberg said the DOT information came after intervenors already questioned the construction panel.

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 committee said it hopes to issue a verbal decision by late February and a written one by late March.

“Placing this amount of transmission cable under roadways in New Hampshire is no small task. It’s unprecedented and challenging,” Murray said.

“The New Hampshire DOT last spring issued its decision to provide a permit to Northern Pass, subject to specified conditions,” Murray said. “As the final design evolves, we are committed to working with the agency to ensure that final design meets its requirements.”

Murray said “the recall of the panel gives our experts an opportunity to address any questions or uncertainties about the design evolution.”

Saffo couldn’t be reached for comment.

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