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Northern Pass panel pays a visit to proposed project sites

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 03. 2017 9:48PM
Protesters in Plymouth walked along with Site Evaluation Committee members Tuesday on Main Street, then gathered for a rally at Plymouth Common. (JOHN KOZIOL/CORRESPONDENT)

In Bristol, Eric Worthen wanted to know why some northern areas would get Northern Pass lines buried through their communities, while his 70-plus acres — home to five cows — would get higher towers than already exist.

“Who says their aesthetic is any more important than ours,” he said in an interview Tuesday while a state committee visited to assess the project’s potential effects.

In Plymouth, barber Don Turnage didn’t want Northern Pass tearing up Main Street to bury power lines.

“What a brilliant idea,” he yelled sarcastically to committee members walking along the street amid protesters. He privately worried that he would lose “a lot” of business while downtown work stretched into parts of two construction seasons.

And in Concord, Ruth Davis worried about power lines coming 45 feet closer to her house and new towers 36 feet higher than what she has now. The committee and others involved in the project’s deliberations walked through her yard to a utility right-of-way to view the existing lines and proposed route.

“The poles will be too close to us,” she said, an estimated 89 feet from her home.

Committee members, some donning sneakers and abandoning their ties, made their seventh visit to places along the proposed route. They carried oversized binders filled with maps and held up photosimulations to see what the project would look like at certain locales.

Visiting places is “a more powerful way of what the potential impact would be if you’re standing in someone’s backyard” than inside a hearing room, said attorney Steven Whitley, who represents several towns, including New Hampton.

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.

Marvin Bellis, an attorney for Eversource, reminded the committee that it tried to minimize disruption along Plymouth’s Main Street, but discussions with local leaders about possible alternative routes failed.

Several hundred people, many carrying signs against Northern Pass, walked along with Site Evaluation Committee members as they explored the Main Street area.

Later, the marchers gathered for a rally at Plymouth Common.

Event organizers, including Steve Rand, the co-owner of Rand’s Hardware on Main Street, said the roadwork could negatively affect his and many other businesses.

Holding a sign that said “Ask Me,” Alex Ray — founder of the Common Man family of restaurants — handed out leaflets saying that 50 businesses are within 20 feet of the Northern Pass line.

Plymouth is a regional business hub, he said; there is no “reasonable alternative” to people who drive into town to access its many amenities.

After visiting Plymouth, committee members went to Ashland, walking across a wooden bridge with gaps where they could see the flowing Squam River below.

The bridge would need fortification to carry the project’s heavy equipment across the river to install nearby power towers in New Hampton.;; Union Leader Correspondent John Koziol contributed to this report.

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