Grafton County, Northern Pass Spar Over Sharing Burial Changes With Landowners

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Garry Rayno photo

During Monday's Northern Pass adjudicative hearing before the Site Evaluation Committee, Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo questions members of an Eversource construction panel. From left to right, Lynn Frazier, traffic designer; Samuel Johnson, lead project manager; and Kenneth Bowes, Eversource Vice President of Engineering.


CONCORD — Landowners along the buried section of the Northern Pass Transmission project may not know the final line placement until state transportation officials decide where it may be placed under state roads.

At Monday’s adjudicative hearing on the $1.6 billion project stretching from Pittsburg to Deerfield, Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo pressed project officials to reach out to abutting landowners in areas where the layout changed. At this point, 60 of the 192-mile line are supposed to be buried underground, with most of that from Bethlehem to Bridgewater.

Saffo, who represents the Grafton County Commissioners in the proceedings, asked Eversource Vice President of Engineering Kenneth Bowes to send landowners new survey reports for the state right-of-way road boundaries so they will know if their properties would be impacted by design changes.

Bowes said he would consider her request after the Department of Transportation decides on requests to bury portions of the 1,090 megawatt line under sections of state roadways.

Project developer Eversource needs the exception requests because the state Utility Accommodation Manual forbids burying utility lines under state roads and recommends they be as close to the right-of-way edge as possible.

“Private landowners left a public hearing at Loon Mountain understanding the line would go under the road and not into adjoining land and the application says that,” Saffo said, “and now you do not want to include landowners until a final approval of a different design?’’

Bowes replied he would want to know the DOT’s decision and any attached conditions before sending out the information. He also said he does not know the scope and scale of such a mailing, and wants to know that before committing.

“The plans shown at a specific public hearing were current at the time,” Bowes said, “with the best information available.”

Saffo asked if a landowner wants to know what will happen on his land, should he consider the entire state right-of-way to be fair game for the project.

Bowes urged landowners to reach out to Eversource and officials will show landowners the initial design, the exception request if there is one and the “highly probable design” based on what the DOT has decided to date.

“We want to be able to show them something more concrete than ‘that makes sense, that is where it will go,’” said Samuel Johnson, lead project manager.

But Saffo said if a landowner objects and developers move the line or location, that will impact an adjoining property owner.

“Most property owners are concerned about what happens from their front door to the pavement,” Saffo said. “Their home is their primary asset.”

Bowes said that is true almost everywhere. “We’re not proposing any taking of property or buildings,” he said, noting the work would be done within the state right-of-way or on property the company already owns.

As part of its application, Eversource asks the Site Evaluation Committee to authorize the DOT to review and decide any exception requests for burying the line under town-owned roads along the 8-mile section of new line in Pittsburg and Stewartstown.

Committee member William Oldenburg, who represents the DOT on the panel, said his agency may not want to take on that responsibility for local roads.

Bowes said resources may be an issue for towns and having the DOT make the decision would provide consistency along the entire route. And he said some provisions would be needed so a town could not delay the project by refusing to act on a request.

He said the agency has put the issue aside until the SEC decides whether to delegate its jurisdiction to the DOT.

Bowes said the developer would be willing to indemnify the state and towns for any additional costs associated with the request.

Committee counsel Michael Iacopino said there are other options that could be considered such as hiring an outside contractor at the company’s expense to oversee the work on town roads or for the SEC to decide and enforce it.

Attorney Robert Baker said he assumes the developers have not submitted the maps to local municipalities for their review, comment or determination, and Bowes said that is correct.

If the SEC determines local boards will need to approve work done to bury the line under town roads, Baker asked, how much longer would that process take than submitting the requests to the DOT?

Bowes said it would add another month to the process. He expects the process to move fairy quickly once the additional surveying work is done.

The agency wants the developer to do additional work to better define the state right-of-way boundaries in order to determine a number of exception requests, saying in many cases the information submitted by Eversource involved approximations.

The company submitted about 190 exception requests, with 118 currently under discussion including 20 that have been approved with conditions. Agency work on the requests has been suspended until the survey report is done in about five to seven weeks.

The project to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity to New England was first proposed seven years ago. The SEC recently delayed making its final decision for five months pushing its deadline until the end of February, 2018.

The committee 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.

If it receives all its permits, Johnson said Monday that construction could begin in April.

On Tuesday, the committee will visit project sites from Plymouth to Deerfield. Adjudicative hearings resume Friday.

 Garry Rayno can be reached at

As a public service, 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.’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
ay 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:, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
une 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
une 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
une 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
une 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
une 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
une 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
uly 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
uly 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
uly 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

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