By GARRY RAYNO
CONCORD — Not enough has been proposed to reduce or eliminate the scenic impacts of the Northern Pass Transmission project, a consultant told the Site Evaluation Committee Monday.
Michael Buscher, president of T.J. Boyle Associates of Burlington, Vt., hired by the Counsel for the Public to review a report done for project developer Eversource on the scenic impacts, said one of the main reasons his company found the project would have unreasonable adverse impacts on scenic resources was the lack of mitigation.
One of the easiest ways to block views of power lines is vegetation and there is little use of that along the project route, or reconfiguring and consolidating new and existing lines on fewer towers, or lowering the height, or changing locations or using less visible material for the towers and wires, he said.
“Reasonable mitigation we would expect to be part of this project was not being followed so the project has unreasonable impact,” Buscher said. “We believe other things could be done.”
Hired by Eversouce, Terrence J. DeWan and Associates of Yarmouth, Maine, found the project would have little to no impact on scenic resources in the state although the firm did find some specific sites would be unreasonably harmed.
Buscher and his associates said the Maine firm did not consider public roads or small water bodies to be scenic resources although the greatest impact will be to people driving on public roads. DeWan considered scenic byways in its analysis, but not other roads.
“It’s the one location where the public has the greatest exposure to the project,” Buscher said. “To have that as a scenic resource is critical.”
Eversource lead attorney Barry Needleman questioned if Buscher had gone beyond SEC rules to include railroad bridges or roads in general. The scenic resource is what needs to be considered, not the view from the resource, he said.
But Buscher said his company used some discretion. When looking at resources impacted along scenic byways, the issue is the view not the asphalt, he noted.
Needleman said one scenic byway considered by DeWan was the Moose Path Scenic Byway which is 98 miles long through the far northern section of the state.
He said the project is only intermittently visible for a mile to a mile-and-a-half along the route. A driver going 50 miles an hour would only see the transmission line for a minute to a minute-and-a-half.
But James Palmer of T.J. Boyle said duration would change for someone biking or walking along the roadway. Duration is not the only consideration, he noted.
Needleman used other examples T.J. Boyle cited as scenic resources with unreasonable adverse impacts such as two overlooks in Bear Brook State Park, crossing hiking trails and Coleman State Park.
He said in every instance the project’s impact on the scenic resources is minimal compared with their overall use.
Needleman said T.J Boyle found the two overlooks along a hiking trail in Bear Brook State Park would be adversely impacted.
Bear Brook is the largest state park in New Hampshire with 10,000 acres and 40 miles of trails, he said, with more than 90 structures visible when the leaves are off the trees.
In most of the park, the project is not visible, he said.
Buscher said the overlooks are “celebrated situations” within the park which makes them more important.
Whether or not the scenic view from the Mountain View Grand Hotel should be considered a scenic resource was debated extensively Monday.
According to the definition of scenic resource, the public has to have access to the building or area, and several committee members questioned if the public has access to the hotel.
DeWan included pictures and simulations along the road to the hotel as well as from the hotel’s porch and found little visual impact from the project.
Buscher said his firm reviewed that information and from other locations at the hotels like rooms and the spa tower to take a more general look at the overall impact.
Is there public access to the rooms and spa tower, Needleman asked.
Buscher said the public can rent rooms and anyone can go up on the front porch.
Committee member Christopher Way, representing the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, noted the hotel could be seen as private property you have to pay a fee to enter, but Palmer said a person also has to pay a fee to use a state park, which is considered a scenic resource.
“Paying a fee to go into a state park is fairly different than the ability to go to a grand hotel,” Way said.
“It’s not the fee per se but how much the fee is?” questioned Palmer. “The money part is a difficult criteria to define public access.”
Another committee member William Oldenberg, representing the Department of Transportation, asked how many unreasonable impacts would it take to not build the project.
“It could be one,” Buscher said, “One single unreasonable effect could be so adverse as to stop the project.”
Craig Wright, representing the Department of Environmental Services, asked could the impact not be considered significant and still prevent the project from going forward.
“That would be highly unlikely,” Buscher said. “But that is all speculation.”
Eversource had hoped to have all federal and state permits by the end of this year with construction to begin next year and the transmission line finished by the end of 2020. The Site Evaluation Committee is not expected to make a final decision on the 192-mile, high-voltage, $1.6 billion transmission line to bring Hydro-Quebec power to New England until the end of February.
If it receives all of its permits, project officials said last month, construction could begin in April.
Garry Rayno can be reached at email@example.com
As a public service, InDepthNH.org publishes the websites for Northern Pass and its opponents at the end of every story along with information about how the adjudicative process works to site new transmission projects and our previous hearing coverage. Sign up for our free Friday newsletter for Northern Pass and other news that matters in NH.
How The Process Works Before The Site Evaluation Committee
Northern Pass’ website explains the hearings process as follows:
The SEC holds adjudicative hearings to consider and weigh evidence. The applicant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a Certificate should be issued. Expert witnesses submit testimony under oath and are subject to cross-examination.
Persons seeking to intervene must file a petition which demonstrates that the “petitioner’s rights, duties, privileges, immunities or other substantial interest might be affected by the proceeding.”
According to Northern Pass’ website: After an extensive adjudicative proceeding, the SEC will issue a Certificate of Site and Facility “if it finds that an applicant has adequate financial, technical, and managerial capability, that a project will not interfere with the orderly development of the region, that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety, and that the project will serve the public interest.”
Eversource had hoped to have all federal and state permits by the end of the year with construction to begin next year and the transmission line finished by the end of 2020.
Members of the subcommittee that will decide Northern Pass by a majority vote are Chairman Martin Honigberg, PUC, presiding officer; Commissioner Kathryn Bailey, PUC; Dir. Craig Wright, Department of Environmental Services; Christopher Way, Department of Business and Economic Affairs; William Oldenburg, Department of Transportation; Patricia Weathersby, public member; and Rachel Dandeneau, alternate public member.
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: Northern Pass Real Estate Expert Concedes Power Lines ‘Thin The Market’
Aug. 3: Day 29: Northern Pass Expert Asked How 1,284 ‘Significant’ Properties Pared Down to 6
Aug. 9: Day 30: No End In Sight For Hearings on Northern Pass’ Controversial Plan
Aug. 29: Day 31: Intervenors Grill Northern Pass’ Historic Preservation Expert
Aug. 30: Day 32: Passionate People From Concord to Clarksville Speak Against Northern Pass
Aug. 31: Day 33: Panel Postpones Northern Pass Decision For Five More Months
Aug. 31: Committee Blasts Eversource For Late Access To ‘Crucial’ Northern Pass Agreement
Sept. 5: 31 Northern Pass Hearings Added; Delay Prompts Lively Facebook Exchange
Sept. 11: Day 34: Counsel: Northern Pass Expert Failed To Survey Public About Scenery Impact
Sept. 12: Day 35: Northern Pass Expert: Views Could Be Worse If Owners Cut Trees Along Route
Sept. 13: Day 36: Chairman Limits Upcoming Cross-Examination By Northern Pass Intervenors
Sept. 15: Day 37: Visual Expert: Exactly Where 52 Miles Of Northern Pass Would Be Buried Still Unknown
Sept. 18: Day 38: Ex-SEC Chairman Varney Grilled As Northern Pass’ Land Use Expert
Sept. 19: Day 39: SEC Chair: New Evidence Indicates Potential Inaccuracies in Northern Pass’ Burial Plans
Sept. 21: Day 40: Study: Granite State Power Link Bests Northern Pass On CO2 Reductions
Sept. 22: Day 41: Grafton County’s Lara Saffo Asks: Should Landowners Trust Northern Pass?
Sept. 25: Day 42: Panel Chair Accuses Intervenor Of Trying To Delay Northern Pass Hearing
Union Reps Tout Northern Pass Jobs
Sept. 26: Day 43: SEC Member: Northern Pass Could Cost Taxpayers More For Public Construction Projects
Sept. 28: Day 44: Testimony: Northern Pass Would Mean $7M in Tax Revenue to Franklin
EPA: Burying 40 More Miles of Northern Pass May Cost a Bit More, But Better for Wetlands
Sept. 29: Day 45: Northern Pass Construction Experts Questioned About ‘Inaccuracies’ In Burial Plans
Northern Pass: EPA Support for 40 More Miles of Line Burial Won’t Delay Wetlands Permit
Oct. 2: Day 46: Grafton County, Northern Pass Spar Over Sharing Burial Changes With Landowners
Oct. 3: Day 47: Plymouth Protesters Say No To Northern Pass as State Regulators Pass By Unnoticed
Oct. 7: Day 48: Les Otten: $5M Balsams Loan Required His Testimony For Northern Pass
Oct. 11: Day 49: Panel Presses Northern Pass Intervenors To Fill Schedule Gaps
Oct. 12: Day 50: Hearing Debate: How Scenic Resources Impacted By Northern Pass Determined