Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass application is Incomplete

By Nancy West

InDepthNH.org

Northern Pass’s application to build a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield is incomplete because the applicants are still studying exactly where the buried portions will be, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth.
Roth, as Counsel for the Public, filed a motion with the state Site Evaluation Committee asking that Northern Pass be ordered to amend its application to include exact details of where the 60 miles of buried line will be.
The rest of the line is scheduled to be built overhead angering some intervenors and critics who either want the massive project to be buried or that it not be built at all. Joint applicants Northern Pass and Eversource Energy insist bringing hydro-electricity from Canada to the New England grid through New Hampshire will be a boon to the state.
Northern Pass’s response to Counsel’s data requests indicated the exact alignment of the proposed transmission line hasn’t yet been determined, Roth wrote.
“Consequently, the application is not complete and will not be complete until the applicants identify the exact alignment of the 60 miles of the underground portion of the transmission line,” Roth wrote.
The motion also asks the SEC subcommittee that will ultimately approve or deny the project to compel Northern Pass to complete its full data requests and to extend intermediate deadlines if need be.
One of two areas where the project is proposed to be built underground involves about 8 miles in Coos County along Route 145 and local roads in Clarksville and Stewartstown. The other is about 52 miles in Grafton County along Route 302, Route 18, Route 116, Route 112 and Route 3, the motion states.
Buried portions will pass through the center of Franconia, Sugar Hill, Easton, Woodstock and Plymouth, Roth said.
“The underground transmission line will pass, often in close proximity to numerous homes, barns, historic burial grounds, rivers and streams, ponds and wetlands, mature stands of trees, and important scenic areas such as Kinsman Notch and the Beaver Pond scenic picnic area and Appalachian Trail crossing,” Roth wrote.
The Counsel for the Public is appointed by the attorney general as a party to the legal proceeding to "represent the public in seeking to protect the quality of the environment and in seeking to assure an adequate supply of energy.”
Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray declined to comment on Roth’s motion.
“This is a formal, adjudicated process and we will file appropriate responses to this and/or other filings in a timely manner,” Murray said.
In the meantime, the technical sessions in which intervenors can informally question Northern Pass experts are scheduled to start Sept. 6 in Concord and run through the month during 11 session days.
The evaluation subcommittee must make its final decision by Sept. 30, 2017. Northern Pass must also obtain federal permits to build the transmission line.
Grafton County Commissioners also filed a motion suggesting later intermediate deadlines, according to Michael Iacopino, the evaluation committee's attorney.
“There have been no motions filed to extend the deadline of Sept. 30, 2017, for the SEC to decide if the project can be built,” said Iacopino.
Two state agencies - the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Services have requested more time past their deadline to finish their recommendations because Northern Pass is still providing them with data. About half of the two dozen intervenor groups have filed motions to compel data from Northern Pass.
Whether delays could impact the final decision date is not known. “I can’t predict what would happen if some of these intermediate deadlines slip,” Iacopino said.
Northern Pass has 10 days from the time the motions were filed to object, Iacopino said, so most would be due by Thursday. It will then be up to subcommittee chairman Martin Honigberg to decide the motions.
Iacopino said Counsel for the Public recognizes that surveying and other work is continuing to determine locations on the underground portions of the line. The outstanding questions involve matters such as whether the line would be buried on the east or west side of roads, he said.
It’s hard to say if the technical sessions will go ahead in two weeks without all of the data being sought by intervenors being provided.
“I don’t know what the rulings will be,” Iacopino said. “We haven’t seen the objections.”
Northern Pass’s application to build a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield is incomplete because the applicants are still studying exactly where the buried portions will be, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth.
Roth said he appreciates that the size and scope of the project is unprecedented.
Still, Counsel for the Public, intervenors and the public cannot assess the proposed transmission line's impact on homes, commercial buildings, emergency services, traffic, businesses, rivers and historical resources until Northern Pass identifies the exact location of the underground transmission lines, Roth wrote.
“These considerations are important throughout the 60 miles of the underground transmission line, and they are particularly acute in busy, congested areas such as the center of Franconia, Woodstock and Plymouth, as well as where the proposed transmission line crosses under Route 3 and the Connecticut River in Clarksville and on the single-lane gravel road in Stewartstown,” Roth wrote.

Route 110 campground proposal gets approvals

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN – The planning board last week gave conditional site plan approval to RM Northern LLC for a proposed commercial campground on Route 110. The board also granted RM Northern, owned by Mike Couch and Roland Berthiaume, a special use permit under the city’s planned development options to develop the 120-acre site into a mixed use development that includes commercial and residential sites as well as the campground.

The developers’ initial focus is the 200-unit campground that they hope to have open by late 2017. A majority of the campsites will be for recreational vehicles or motor homes and will provide water and sewer hook ups. But there will also be remote tent sites and cabins. The proposal calls for using 28 acres for the campground, road, office building, and amenities such as a swimming pool. The remaining 20 acres will be left as open space for recreational use.

In approving the site plan, the board added 11 conditions, ranging from approvals of various permits to city approval of water lines, utilities, streets and signs. The planning board also approved a number of waivers relating to the gravel road base, culverts and shoulders.

RM Northern appeared before the board in July but the matter was continued to August to allow the parties to discuss the access road to the city’s water treatment plant. The road runs through a section of the property.

Berlin Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme reported that after the July meeting, city staff decided to have a third party review of the application after additional questions arose about the sewer system, the sewer pumping station near the property and road specifications. Wright Pierce Engineering did the review at a cost of $5,000, which the applicant will cover.

The 11-page report noted that the design capacity of the city’s wastewater treatment plant was increased as a result of the recent upgrade and work done to reduce inflow and infiltration into the system. In determining if the proposed gravity sewer system designed for the project is sufficient, the Wright Pierce report pointed out that future use of the commercial property is unknown. It recommended assigning a sewer flow adequately sized for future build-out of the development. The city will have to submit a sewer connection application to N.H. Department of Environmental Services for the project.

The review found that the Dear River pumping station is adequately sized to accept the additional flows from the development but recommended the city look at building a new one in the future to accommodate additional development on Jericho Road.

Representing the developers, Don Bouchard of Horizons Engineering said they are currently working on the drainage plan for the project as they prepare the application to DES for the alteration of terrain permit. Bouchard said the alteration of terrain permit is the most difficult one and he expects to submit it this fall. He said the hope is to have their last application, to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, submitted by January.

One issue raised at the July meeting was the city’s access road to the water treatment plant, which runs through the property. In the later phase of the project, some of the planned residential units would use that road. One of the conditions of the site plan approval requires the developers to install a gate at the edge of their property where the road meets Berlin Water Works property. RM Northern must also sign an agreement with water works over maintenance of the section of road on its property.

Berlin Water Works to begin Hydrant Flushing Program

BERLIN — For the next few weeks, the Berlin Water Works will be flushing hydrants during the daytime hours from Monday through Friday throughout the City.

Beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 23, and until finished; the Berlin Water Works will be flushing hydrants throughout the City for the purpose of cleaning water mains. Repairs will be made to the hydrants found inoperable during the flushing program.

Discolored water and low pressure will occur for short time intervals in different areas of the City during the Hydrant Flushing Program.

In the event you experience discolored water, let your faucet run for 5-10 minutes to permit the discolored water to pass through your service line. If the conditions continue, close your faucet and wait for a period of 15-20 minutes to permit the discolored water to pass through your area and then reopen your tap again.

Berlin Water Works thanks you for your cooperation during the Hydrant Flushing Program. The final results will be beneficial to all water customers.

Installation of water main to impact traffic

BERLIN — Due to the installation of a new water main at the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Willow St. it will be necessary to stop traffic on Willow Street from Emery Street to Pine Street and on Hillside from Wight Street to Blanchard Street. Only local traffic will be allowed on Tuesday, Aug. 23, and possibly on Wednesday, Aug. 24, from 7:30 a.m. to the completion of the work. Please find an alternate route for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Berlin Water Works wishes to apologize for this inconvenience and would like to thank the people in these areas for their patience and understanding. When the water is turned back on, you may have air and dirt in your service line. Please run your water until the water is clear.