The Northern Pass Route

The Power of Place: Northern Pass Documentary

The current Northeast Utilities right of way in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

 

As I’ve mentioned in several other places, Northern Pass is planning to run a new set of transmission lines for about 180 miles from Pittsburg, New Hampshire, south to Deerfield. Some of the most vocal opposition has been in the northern part of the state, particularly in Coos County, where Northern Pass will need to clear at least 40 miles of new right of way to accommodate the transmission lines. For those of you who haven’t been to Coos County, it is very rural, home to small villages, rolling hills that top out at over 3000 feet, hill farms, and a large expanse of working forest. It is a beautiful place that is best known to outsiders for its extensive snowmobile trails, prime fly-fishing hot spots, and the Cohos Trail, a long distance hiking trail that connects the White Mountain National Forest to the Quebec border.

When Northern Pass announced their proposed route in Coos County in 2010 they were met with such fierce opposition that they pulled the proposal and said they would come up with a new route, which they still have not announced (see my previous post on this issue: https://ecophotography.com/the-power-of-place-thought-for-the-day-april-18-2013/.) At the time there was a lot of talk about Northern Pass using eminent domain to acquire their right of way (it should be noted that Northern Pass is a for-profit corporation, not a public entity.) As you can imagine, in the Live Free or Die state, this did not go over well, and the state legislature subsequently passed a law prohibiting the use of eminent domain for private, electricity transmission projects.

View of the PSNH right of way from The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

View of the Northeast Utilities right of way from The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

Without the use of eminent domain, Northern Pass is forced to acquire land for the right of way from willing sellers, and they are making progress with this effort. You can see what they have acquired thus far in the inset map of this larger map of the entire route published by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The pink areas are Northern Pass acquisitions. Note all of the conservation land and public land (in green) that the apparent route abuts.
You’ll also notice that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is attempting to block this route, by purchasing conservation easements on key “pinch point” parcels.

South of where Northern Pass needs to build a new right of way, they are planning to use 140 miles of existing right of way, which already carries a lower voltage electricity on 50-foot high wooden telephone poles. This right of way was built in the 1950’s, primarily using easements on privately held land, some of it conservation land. To carry new power from Hydro Quebec, Northern Pass will need to build an additional set of lines and towers (keeping the old lines) to carry a much higher voltage electricity. In some places, these new towers will be within 50 feet of existing homes and businesses, which introduces a potential health risk that currently doesn’t exist. On the existing 140 miles of right of way, it’s apparent that Northern Pass was planning to use eminent domain in some cases to force landowners to let them widen the existing right of way to accommodate new steel lattice towers, up to 90 feet high. Without eminent domain, their plan seems to be to buy off landowners where they can, and where they can’t, they’ll use 135-foot high steel monopoles that won’t require a widening of the right of way. In neither case, the visual impact of the new line will be significant, with a wider right of way being visible from significantly more locations and higher towers rising well above a treeline that now hides the current lines.

If you have any questions about the route, please post them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Cheers!
-Jerry

 

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