By GARRY RAYNO,
CONCORD — Several members of the Site Evaluation Committee questioned whether more could be done to minimize harm to wetlands by the Northern Pass Transmission project.
At Monday’s hearing on the $1.6 billion, 192-mile electric transmission project, environmental engineers hired by project developer Eversource said avoiding and minimizing impacts to environmentally sensitive areas is a balancing act between protection and flexibility.
Committee member William Oldenburg, Department of Transportation assistant director of project development, showed one section of the planned transmission line in Dixville and suggested the proposed access road could be relocated to avoid two wetlands and minimize the effect on another.
But Lee Carbonneau, assistant project director for Normandeau Associates, hired by Eversource, said for construction, the access road needs to be as straight as possible to avoid structures, noting steep slopes are also problematic for equipment.
“It is a balancing act between making sure not to eliminate what turns out to be the best access for the contractors and minimizing their options,” she said.
Carbonneau said some minor changes may be made in the field, but if they are significant, the Department of Environmental Services would have to review the effect on wetlands.
Oldenburg noted the underground section of the line is being redesigned to ensure the line and slice vaults are not under the roadway. Yet, he said many sections have wetlands in the right of way or adjacent to it.
“I’m guessing there is a lot more temporary and even permanent impact to wetlands,” Oldenburg said, “if these lines are buried off the road.”
Environmental project manager Jake Tinus from Burns and McDonnell Engineering, said about 50 percent of the 60 miles of buried line have been examined and only one wetland will be temporarily impacted by construction.
“We are committed to study the remainder of (the buried line) and will report our findings,” said project spokesman Martin Murray, adding there is a provision to ask for an exemption to move the line under the roadway, and that may happen to avoid the potential impact on the wetland.
With the potential for more wetlands impacts, Oldenburg questioned whether the project’s mitigation plan is sufficient.
Carbonneau said the mitigation plan includes more than what is needed. She said that allows some flexibility during construction.
She said if the impact is greater than 20 percent than what is permitted, the Department of Environmental Services requires the developer to resubmit its application and start over again.
The SEC members questioned the panel extensively about the environmental monitors who are expected to ensure protocols, best management practices, and restrictions are followed.
According to the developers, there are four main areas of construction and each will have a supervisor with field monitors who answer to them.
Carbonneau said there would be a greater need for people to monitor such things as erosion, sediment control, wetlands impact and water quality, but less need for wildlife and botany specialists who would travel from site to site as needed.
There would be two teams of monitors – one hired by Eversource and another team hired by contractors.
The monitors are credentialed, Tunis said, and they have to follow certain ethical standards, but “the teeth is with the DES.”
Following the requirements and restrictions is easier than taking short cuts, said Carbonneau. If an egregious event occurs, construction can be shut down until the problem is fixed, she said, and that would have a greater impact on construction and the project’s schedule.
Deputy Director of the Department of Resources and Economic Development Christopher Way asked what assurances there are that the environmental requirements will be followed.
On projects she has monitored, Carbonneau said, if the project manager empowers the monitor before the workers that they have the power to stop work, “that solves almost every problem.”
Way asked if there were 30 or so people in the state who have the skills to be environmental monitors.
Tinus said there are a couple hundred individuals who are properly credentialed to do the work in the state.
The developers of the project plan to bring 1,090 megawatts of Hydro-Quebec power to the New England grid and hope to complete permitting this year with the line operating in 2020.
The Site Evaluation Committee will not meet again until July 18. The committee must decide by Sept. 30 whether to approve or deny the application submitted by Northern Pass Transmission/Eversource Energy.
Garry Rayno can be reached at email@example.com
InDepthNH.org’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC hearings on Northern Pass.
April 13, Day 1: Eversource NH Chief Quinlan On The Hot Seat At Northern Pass Hearing
April 14, Day 2: Eversource Chief Questioned About ‘Clean’ Energy Claims And Northern Pass Costs
April 17: Day 3: Eversource: Hydro-Quebec Revenues Could Fall Short In Northern Pass’ First Year
April 18: Day 4: Northern Pass’ Potential Health Concerns Debated At Hearing
April 19: Day 5: Concerns Raised About Northern Pass Affecting Health of Sherburne Woods Residents in Deerfield
April 30: Is NH Getting ‘Hoodwinked’ on Health and Safety By Northern Pass?
May 1: Day 6: Testimony: 44 New Access Roads Needed To Build 192-Mile Northern Pass in NH
May 2: Day 7: Northern Pass Expert: 3 Months of Construction Likely In Downtown Plymouth
May 3: Day 8: Project Official: Northern Pass Construction Limited To 7 am to 7 pm, Noise Assessed Daily
May 3: Eversource’s Chief Quinlan Listed as ‘Host’ For Sununu Fundraiser
May 4: Day 9: Grafton County Attorney Grills Northern Pass Experts On Land Buys
May 5: Day 9, story 2: Common Man’s Alex Ray: Northern Pass Disruption in Plymouth Would Be ‘Fatal’ To Business
May 8: Forest Society Calls Northern Pass Inflated Land Buys a ‘Shell Game’
May 25: Hydro-Quebec Explores Opportunities in New England, New York
May 31: InDepthNH.org, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
June 1: Day 11: Applicant: Northern Pass Would Mitigate Impact On Endangered State Butterfly
June 8: Day 12: Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass Financial Expert’s Perspective ‘Unnaturally Optimistic’
June 9: Day 13: Portions of Northern Pass Hearings Held In Closed Session, Again
June 12: Public Statement Hearings On Northern Pass Begin June 15
June 13: Day 14: Analyst: Customer Using 300 kw Would Save $1.50 a Month With Northern Pass
June 14: Day 15: Regulator: Committee Could Consider Conditioning Approval for Northern Pass
June 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
June 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
June 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
June 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
June 23: Day 20: Northern Pass Seeks 15 More Hearing Days For Total of 57
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-738-5635