By GARRY RAYNO
CONCORD — In the future, views along Northern Pass’s route could deteriorate if private property owners decide to cut trees on their land.
The visual assessment done by Terrence J. DeWan Associates of Yarmouth, Maine, for developer Eversource, is based on current vegetation, said company president Terrence DeWan during Tuesday’s adjudicative hearing on the 192-mile, $1.6 billion, high-voltage transmission project.
He acknowledged the visual impact could change in the future if private property owners decide to cut trees or do not maintain new vegetation planted on their property to help hide towers or other structures along the above-ground section.
The study done by the company found only about 20 of 525 scenic resources within three miles of the transmission line would be impacted, and none significantly.
Several attorneys noted Eversource did not control the land with much of the vegetation that blocks the views of the towers.
Attorney Christine Fillmore, representing several North Country and Grafton County communities, noted the visual impact would change if existing vegetation was destroyed in a fire or a storm. “The owner would be under no obligation to replace it, correct,” she asked.
“Not to my knowledge,” DeWan said.
Attorney Steven Whitley representing Deerfield, Pembroke and several other towns along the project route, focused on views from Pawtuckaway State Park.
Whitley noted DeWan’s report notes transmission structures can only be seen from two locations with no impact on a majority of the park.
Those two locations are along a hiking trail to the North Mountain Overlook which is popular with hikers. From the top of the mountain, two transmission lines and the existing substation are visible, he said, and noted a new substation is planned near the existing one.
“User expectation is particularly high at a place like this,” Whitley said. “If the vegetation is not present anymore, that is going to impact the visual effect ranking.”
He suggested hikers would be less likely to go to the area or may not linger as long if the project is more visible.
DeWan disagreed saying there is no indication the project would have “any effect whatsoever” noting people see the existing substation now and the two transmission corridors. “There should be no effect whatsoever,” he said.
Concord’s Deputy City Solicitor Danielle Pacik questioned research that failed to include the Contoocook River in the state’s Rivers Management Program, and said the project would have a low visual impact.
Yet, she said, the river is in the program and has been since 1991.
If you had known, the visual impact rating would have changed and the company would have done more analysis, Pacik said.
DeWan said at the time they did not believe it was in the program, but did note they did additional analysis.
The river is more than two miles long through the urban cluster, DeWan said, and it is highly unlikely anyone would see enough of the structures to warrant additional evaluation.
At that distance, there would not be any significant visual effect, DeWan said, and used a similar argument when Pacik said the company had also missed White Park — which is on the national historical register and qualifies as a scenic resource — and several other Concord locations.
Research mistakes were not the only issue raised about DeWan’s work.
Photo simulations for Deerfield village district “are a bit misleading,” Whitley said. He said pictures indicating a view of a transmission tower near the church would be blocked by vegetation was not true from other points.
If the committee uses the simulation and narrative to evaluate the project, Whitley said, they will have a misleading account.
“If you walk through the village district east to west on Main Street,” Whitley said, “there are at least two distinct views of a Northern Pass structure.”
DeWan said the village district has to be viewed as a whole and he tried to show “the average of what someone would see.”
Some people in the district would not see the structure at all, he said.
DeWan and his associate, Jessica Kimball, a planner and landscape architect, will continue to testify Wednesday.
The 1,090 megawatt project to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity to southern New England was first proposed seven years ago. The Site Evaluation Committee recently delayed making its final decision for five months. Instead of making a decision at the end of this month, it will now be delayed until the end of February, 2018.
The committee also added 31 more adjudicative hearings to be held at 49 Donovan St., in Concord from October through the end of the year.
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.
Garry Rayno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at email@example.com or call 603-738-5635