By GARRY RAYNO
CONCORD — Counsel for the Public Peter Roth questioned how Eversource preservation experts pared over 1,284 historic and culturally significant properties impacted by Northern Pass transmission lines down to six at Thursday’s adjudicative hearing on the project.
The experts concluded there would be “no unreasonable adverse effects” from the project although many properties will have visual impacts from the project.
Project developer Everource said the experts’ assessments will be used to help avoid and minimize impacts to historic resources.
Initially, the work found the $1.6 billion, 192-mile transmission line to bring Hydro-Quebec power to southern New England potentially could adversely affect 1,284 properties.
A preservation expert retained by Roth suggests the list should have been larger as did initial work by the state Division of Historical Resources in reviewing the Northern Pass application.
But Cherilyn Widell of Widell Preservaton Services of Chestertown, Maryland, who oversaw the work for Northern Pass, said her work along with Preservation Company of Kensington produced a broader net.
What method was used to pare the list, Roth asked Widell.
She said the first step is to identify all the potential properties in the “Area of Potential Effect” along the line’s route from Pittsburg to Deerfield, which was 1,284.
Then a computer program determined if the transmission line could be seen from the properties. Another criterion is that the structures have to be at least 50 years old.
That reduced the number to 194, Widell said, and those properties were visited and their future impact analyzed.
Roth asked if properties were eliminated from consideration simply because there was no view of the transmission line, and initially Widell said other criteria were involved but after repeated questions acknowledged some were eliminated on that criterion alone, but could not say how many.
After the 194 properties were analyzed further, the number of properties with adverse impacts was 12, but has since been reduced to six although some of the 12 are now included in rural large historic and agricultural districts.
Roth said the process Widell and Preservation Company used should have first determined if the property was historically or culturally significant and retains its “integrity” before the visual impact is considered, but Widell disagreed saying they did the research to determine whether properties were eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Roth cited a Dec. 2, 2015, letter from the Division of Historical Resources saying the paring of properties was done more through “visual assessment and consultants’ judgement than an understanding of significance.”
Widell said Preservation Company has been doing historical inventories in the state for more than 30 years in many communities affected by the proposed power lines.
She said work with project engineers to change locations and types of poles have reduced many of the adverse impacts initially noted.
But Roth questioned if the adverse impacts have truly been avoided or minimized if larger structures will be installed closer to the edge of the right-of-way.
Widell said the plan uses 90 miles of a decades old corridor, much of it through forests on low-lying lands which helps to minimize visual impacts.
Roth noted Widell testified burying 60 miles of the project will help minimize the adverse effects, but the work to bury the line underground could impact historical properties.
“Are you saying having a big (slice vault) box buried in the front yard of a historical property will not have an effect,” Roth asked. Widell said it could.
The project was not found to have an adverse impact on the National Historic Landmark, the Webster Farm and Daniel Webster Family Home, but was found to have an adverse visual impact on the Weeks Estate and State Park in Lancaster, but not enough to remove it from the National Register of Historic Places.
Roth also noted the project will have an adverse impact on a number of historical and cultural districts such as North Road in Lancaster and Northside Road in Stark that could make them ineligible for the National Register.
A status hearing on the 1,090 megawatt transmission project to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity to New England will be held Wednesday. Adjudicative hearings will resume Aug. 29.
The developers hope to complete permitting this year with the line operating by the end of 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: SEC Members Quiz Northern Pass Experts On Wetland Protection
July 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
July 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
July 20: Day 24: Pessamit Innu, Lawmakers, Citizens, Businesses All Have Their Say on Northern Pass
July 21: Day 25: Deputy Solicitor: Northern Pass’ Tax Breaks Not So Great for Concord Property Owners
July 27: More Competition & Northern Pass Commits $10M To Help Low-Income Mass. Customers
July 31: Day 26: Public Counsel Grills Northern Pass Expert On Property Value Impact
Aug. 1: Day 27: Northern Pass’ Real Estate Expert Questioned About Data Accuracy
Aug 2: Day 28:
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