By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Eversource will be allowed to present new information about the Seacoast Reliability Project’s visual impact on three scenic and historic sites.
Patricia Weathersby, chair of the Site Evaluation Subcommittee, ruled Wednesday that the record for the project could be reopened to accept the addendum from Eversource, and to allow the utility’s expert to be cross-examined by intervenors and the Counsel for the Public on Thursday.
The 13-mile high-voltage transmission line would run from Portsmouth to Madbury, going through Durham and Newington and under Little Bay, which is the most controversial part of the project.
Attorney Barry Needleman, representing Eversource, made the request last week to reopen the record which regulators had closed on Oct. 26 saying the new information would give regulators additional information before the subcommittee begins deliberations later this month.
“The Addendum provides relevant, discrete information that will allow full consideration of the issues presented at the hearing,” Needleman wrote in the motion to re-open the record. “More specifically, it confirms that no Determined Eligible Sites that are actually scenic resources under Site 102.45 were overlooked in the (visual assessment). After sites are screened based on lack of visibility, lack of public access and/or lack of scenic quality, none remain that were not already considered.”
There are three sites at issue, Merrill Hall on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, four historic buildings along Woodbury Avenue in Newington, including the Isaac Dow House and the General Sullivan Bridge.
In her order, Weathersby said the additional information is necessary for the committee’s full consideration of the project.
“The Subcommittee is required to consider the impact of the Project on historic sites with scenic qualities to which the public has a legal right to access that are eligible for inclusion in the State Register of Historic Places or the National Register of Historic Places,” Weathersby wrote in her order. “The Addendum analyzing and addressing this impact is relevant and material to the Subcommittee’s determination. The information is nonduplicative.”
Last week, Weathersby said if the request to reopen the record is granted, a hearing would be held Thursday for cross-examining Eversource’s witness for historic and scenic sites, David Raphael.
The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. at 49 Donovan St. in Concord. Deliberations begin Nov. 28 at the same address.
The controversial project was proposed as early as 2012 — with the application filed in 2016 — to make the transmission system more reliable in an area that has seen a greater and greater demand for electricity. Eversource said without the new transmission line, rolling blackouts are possible.
Much of the objection is to the underground section through Little Bay and the method that would be used to place the cable, and the section through Durham.
The cost of the $84 million project will be included in all New England customer rates because it is a reliability project approved by ISO (Independent System Operator)-New England.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.