Counsel Raises Questions About Road Closures During Northern Pass Construction

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Garry Rayno photo

Construction experts hired by the Counsel for the Public to review construction plans for the Northern Pass Transmission Project during Monday's adjudicative hearings before the Site Evaluation Committee. Left to right are Earle C.(Rusty) Bascom of Electric Consulting Engineering, PC, and Adam Zysk, David L. Taylor, Jr. and Brenden Alexander of Dewberry, an engineering firm based in Baltimore with a regional office in Boston.

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CONCORD — The routes 116 and 18 intersection in Franconia would have one lane closed in two directions up to five months during construction of the Northern Pass Transmission project, construction experts said Monday.

Construction engineers hired by the Counsel for the Public to review plans for constructing the 192-mile, high-voltage transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield said many of the underground drilling sites would require lane closures during construction that could last from one to two months.

And they said burying the lines in the far northern section would require closing roads, including one leading to a dairy farm that uses trailer trucks to pick up its milk.

Attorney Tom Pappas, representing the Counsel for the Public, reviewed a series of requests project developer Eversource has submitted to the state Department of Transportation to bury the line and some maintenance pits under state and local roads, which agency rules generally prohibit.

He focused on the Franconia intersection where the developers propose to drill under Gale River with a process called horizontal directional drilling.

The process requires at least 300 feet for both entrance and exit work areas for each of two underground transmission lines.

Pappas asked if the work area locations would require closing one lane of two of the four-road intersection and Dewberry vice president David L. Taylor, Jr. said it would. The engineering firm was hired by the Counsel for the Public to review the developer’s construction plans.

Pappas asked if the lane closures could last as long as 20 weeks and maybe longer if unexpected problems are encountered and Taylor agreed.

Earlier, Franconia business owners testified construction during the peak summer tourist season could put those businesses at risk.

Experts hired by Eversource have testified there would be minimal effect on regional tourism during project construction.

 Transmission Station 4

Pappas also questioned the panel about the construction of transmission station 4 along rural Bear Rock Road in Stewartstown.

Earlier the Eversource construction panel noted they had made a mistake estimating the amount of soil that needs to be removed to construct the facility.

Pappas noted the public counsel’s engineers made an adjustment to cut and fill figures after reviewing the applicant’s plans.

Taylor said “slightly more” soil would need to be removed for the facility or about 75,000 cubic yards.

Pappas asked how many truckloads it would take to remove the soil and Taylor said about 7,500 truckloads assuming 10 cubic yards per truck.

Verbal agreements

Attorney Steve Whitley, representing the Ashland Water and Sewer Department, questioned whether the developer followed through on changes Eversource vice president Kenneth Bowes agreed to make at the Ashland sewer treatment lagoons to avoid monitoring wells.

He contrasted Bowes’ testimony agreeing to change tower locations and an access road to protect the monitoring wells with a letter from project developers dated Aug. 25.

He said that the letter indicated in three instances the changes would be made “if necessary” and in the other instance the change would not be made.

Is there any reason the changes were now qualified, Whitley asked, and the panel said they did not know.

Whitley also said one change in the access road location Bowes agreed to is not in the latest construction plans. Would there be any reason for that, he asked, and the panel said they did not know.

Contacted about the discrepancies, project spokesperson Martin Murray said the company investigated the proposed changes.

“A careful review determined that while relocation of the construction pad is not necessary, we have modified the size of the pad; ensured that the location of the monitoring wells be verified prior to construction; and protective fencing will be installed,” Murray said. “As you know, the construction design process is iterative. The questions or concerns addressed by Mr. Bowes were fully investigated and resulted in the modifications outlined.”

Noise and Construction

Concord deputy city solicitor Danielle Pacik questioned Adam Zysk of Dewberry about his findings on construction noise and the impact it would have on rural urban areas.

“In urban areas, the temporary increase in noise levels due to construction or other disruptive factors may be seen as a relatively minor increase in the overall noise level and may be ignored or generally tolerated as long as the impact is understood to be short term,” Zysk wrote. “Along much of the proposed route, however, the project is routed to pass through rural or lightly developed areas where the ambient noise level is quite low. In these areas the impact of the proposed construction will be significant.”

Pacik asked Zysk what short-term construction meant, and he said a year or less. She asked if he understood areas of Concord were rural and others lightly developed and much of the transmission line would go through those areas.

Even some urban areas have residential projects like McKenna’s Purchase, she said, which is within 100 to 200 feet of the line.

The impact would depend on the ambient noise levels, Zysk said, noting McKenna’s Purchase is next to a major retail facility so there is ambient noise year-round.

But he agreed construction noise in the area could be noticeable and a disturbance.

Pacik said project officials have said construction would be limited to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, but a draft memorandum of agreement that four communities signed allows equipment to idle one half hour before and after work and for Sunday construction as well.

Does that address your concerns, she asked Zysk, and he said those provisions are common and it was a draft plan.

And she said Eversource also seeks an exception to city or town restrictions on roads during the spring when damage could occur.

She noted all those exceptions are in the four memos of understanding signed by four communities.

“Do these MOUs not alleviate the concerns you raised about construction earlier,” Pacik asked. Zysk said he assumed the provisions were reviewed and accepted by the municipalities.

But the residents who live in those communities will be impacted by the noise and other activities, she noted, and he agreed.

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 high-voltage transition line until Feb. 28, 2018.

If it receives all of its permits, project officials said last month, construction could begin in April.

Adjudicative hearings on the project continue Tuesday with the Counsel for the Public’s construction panel testifying.

Garry Rayno can be reached at


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