By GARRY RAYNO,
CONCORD — A tourism expert hired by the developers of the Northern Pass Transmission project says the project will have no measurable effect on the state’s tourism industry.
But attorneys for intervenors in the $1.6 billion transmission project questioned whether Mitch Nichols of Nichols Tourism Group of Bellingham, Wash., addressed critical issues such as traffic delays, detours, visual impacts and access to businesses and attractions to determine real impact on tourism.
Nichols maintained in his 20 years of experience in the tourism industry, transmission lines have never been a concern raised by any of his clients and there are no studies anywhere linking the lines to a decrease in tourism.
“Visitors understand transmission line are part of traveling’s reality today,” Nichols said.
Nichols said his research found visitors come to New Hampshire because of the diversity of experiences, the ease of access and its affordability.
Attorney Amy Manzelli, representing the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, cited a study Nichols did for the state in the early 2000’s touting the state’s beauty and aesthetics as key reasons people visit New Hampshire.
You found New Hampshire’s greatest strength was access to mountain, lakes and rivers, and forests and quaint towns and villages, she said, noting the state was ranked number one in New England for fall foliage and its scenic natural beauty.
Nowhere in the report were transmission lines discussed, Manzelli noted.
Manzelli and attorney Thomas Pappas, representing the Counsel of the Public, questioned why Nichols had not specifically discussed traffic delays and how that might impact tourism.
They noted that the construction season when Northern Pass would be built coincides with the peak tourism season.
“Would you agree first impressions are important in the tourism industry?” asked Pappas and an unexpected traffic delay could make a difference whether a visitor returns.
Nichols said he would not agree with Pappas’s assumption.
“What if they experience traffic delays two seasons in a row?” Pappas asked, “might that send them to Maine or Vermont?”
Nichols said tourists decide more on the broader experience. If someone goes to a festival and they are stuck in traffic, that would not deter them if they enjoyed the festival, he said.
The attorneys also questioned how thorough Nichols had studied various areas of the state and the impact Northern Pass might have, particularly the locations along the route from Canada to Deerfield where it would be visible.
But Nichols disagreed saying he did look at different regions and included that in his overall conclusions.
Pappas suggested the greatest impact would be within the three regions where the transmission line would be located, and not so much in Manchester or Nashua or Portsmouth or Keene.
Nichols said the regions outside where the transmission line travels would be less likely to have impacts
“Do you know what region Keene is located or Portsmouth?” Pappas asked, and Nichols said, “Not off the top of my head. I would have to look at a map.”
According to information supplied by project developer Eversource, Nichols’ research included data from the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development, Plymouth State University’s Institute of New Hampshire Studies, along with interviews with tourism industry representatives, a prospective visitors survey and US Bureau of Labor Statistics in developing his report
Kaitlyn Woods, project spokeswoman said Nichols took a more global approach to tourism to look at the overall impact of the project.
Without a doubt, she said, nothing shows the project would impact whether people visit New Hampshire.
Hearings on the $1.6 billion, 192-mile, high-voltage transmission project will continue Wednesday with a public comment period Thursday.
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.
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
June 26: Day 21
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