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Northern Pass foes expected at Plymouth site tour


September 17. 2017 10:00PM




CONCORD — Steve Rand expects a hundred or more opponents of Northern Pass to turn out in Plymouth when a state committee considering the project visits on a site tour next month.

“There’s a bunch of organizing that will cause a good-sized group to be present when the bus shows” with members of the state Site Evaluation Committee, said Rand, co-owner of Rand’s Hardware on Main Street in Plymouth.

“I think it will be real important that the SEC actually gets the visual of that (project) and hears from people who are affected,” said Rand, who worries about losing customers both during and after weeks of construction to bury power lines along Main Street.

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.

The committee will stop or pause at more than a dozen places between Plymouth and Deerfield on a roughly seven-hour tour Oct. 3, according to the newly released schedule.

“I’d like to think it’s helpful to the opponents, but I don’t know,” said attorney Steve Whitley, who represents several communities, including Deerfield, as well as Ashland Water and Sewer, another committee stop. “I think it just gives you a much better sense of scale.”

The committee made two days of site visits in the North Country in late July.

“The tours are extremely helpful because they give the SEC and intervenors a true perspective of the actual route,” Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said Sunday. “Once people see the proposed route and understand how the project will be built, they can better appreciate that by and large the project will not be visible from populated areas. Keep in mind that more than 80 percent of the route is along existing transmission corridors or buried along existing roadways.”

Both sides are providing experts, photosimulations and studies to bolster the project’s alleged benefits and pitfalls.

“I’m hopeful for people making the decision to look for themselves and envision for themselves what the impact would be,” said project critic Jack Savage with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

One 25-minute stop will take the committee to Sherburne Woods, a senior housing complex in Deerfield near the proposed route. Some opponents during the committee’s months-long hearing questioned whether pacemakers around there could be affected by certain levels of electromagnetic (EMF) fields coming from nearby power lines. A Northern Pass expert said he didn’t expect any such effects.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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