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Northern Pass gets SEC scrutiny

Union Leader Correspondent

July 27. 2017 9:58PM
During a site visit Thursday by the NH Site Evaluation Committee, Peter Roth, who is a Senior Assistant Attorney General acting as Counsel to the Public holds a drawing of the crossing, while Tom Pappas, an attorney for the Counsel to the Public, explains the particulars of exactly how and where the proposed Northern Pass transmission line will enter from Canada into New Hampshire in the area of Old Canaan Road and Route 3 at the Clarksville/Pittsburg town line. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

PITTSBURG — The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee trekked up to the North Country on Thursday for a close-up look at how the proposed Northern Pass transmission project might affect the region.

On Friday, the SEC will conclude the two days of site visits with stops in Dummer, Stark, Lancaster, Bethlehem, Franconia and Woodstock.

The full seven-member committee and some 15 interested individuals are taking a motorcoach to the sites. The first stop on Thursday was at Old Canaan Road here, which is located off Route 3, just north of the Clarksville town line.

It is in this area that the Northern Pass would cross into New Hampshire from Canada, go beneath Route 3, then east, before turning west and south and eventually traveling 192 miles to Deerfield and then into the New England power grid.

The SEC has given itself until Sept. 30 to render a decision on Northern Pass’ application. Many opponents of Northern Pass, which was introduced by Eversource, the corporate parent of the former New Hampshire Public Service, say the transmission line is unnecessary and that its high towers will ruin views and thereby property values as well as tourism.

Eversource has proposed burying about a third of the line underground, but there have been many demands that all of it go underground.

Site visits, said Peter Roth, a Senior Assistant Attorney General who has been appointed Counsel for the Public in the Northern Pass application, are an opportunity for SEC members to understand how involved some of the construction will be.

For example, to bring Northern Pass across Route 3 from Pittsburg would entail going deep beneath the bed of the Connecticut River. The work would also probably force the extended closure of Old Canaan Road, said Roth, something that concerned Haven Haynes, a selectmen in neighboring Canaan, Vt.

Haynes said the road is an important through-way for Canaan residents and that the town has never been notified about its being shut down. He also wondered whether the SEC was aware of the fact that the current route of Northern Pass from Pittsburg into Clarksville passes through Vermont first.

Sally Zankowski of Stewartstown is an intervenor in the Northern Pass application and the owner of a rambling farmhouse on just under five acres of land on Route 145 in Clarksville, across from Old County Road. She said she hopes to bring the farm back to life as a working farm, a three-season farmer’s market and lodging,

The Northern Pass lines would go above and below Zankowski’s property. While many Northern Pass critics have said they’d be willing to accept the project if the line was buried for its entire length, she doesn’t want it built at all.

The North Country is a beautiful place, said Zankowski, “and I think it would be criminal to disturb it” either above or below ground.

She firmly believes that Northern Pass has bought its way forward by making, in some cases, seven-figure offers to buy land.

“I think it’s all about money and they think we’re gullible bumpkins,” she said.

Eversource spokesman Martin Murray said the company has listened “very carefully” to the concerns of abutters and the Public Counsel.

“We think we have a very sensible project in that area you were in today,” said Murray. “We have a secure route in the North Country.”

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