New Hampshire Groups Want Power Line Shifted To Vermont

12/16/10 5:50PM By John Dillon
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AP Photo/Jim Cole
The Hydro-Quebec power lines would be larger than these in Northumberland, N.H.
(Host) Opposition is growing to a New Hampshire power line that would carry electricity from Quebec to southern New England.

Opponents have suggested an alternative: They say Hydro-Quebec should use an existing transmission corridor in Vermont.

VPR's John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Developers have named the high-voltage power line project the Northern Pass. The direct current line would run about 140 miles through New Hampshire. And it's designed to carry 1,200 megawatts to the New England grid. 

The line will follow some existing rights of way, but about 45 miles of new corridor would be cleared through forestland in the North Country. And New Hampshire's oldest and largest forest conservation organization doesn't like it.

(Difley) "We're against it as proposed."

(Dillon) Jane Difley is president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The group has protected tens of thousands of acres in the state.

(Difley) "So we're concerned about where those lines are going to go through conserved lands. We're also concerned about the visual impacts of the lines. This is DC power, so the lines are likely to be higher than any existing towers, so the impact on the North Country, which these days depends on tourism for its livelihood, could be an economic issue as well as a visual issue."

(Dillon) The Forest Society says one alternative is for the line to follow an existing transmission corridor from Canada that runs through the northeast corner of Vermont in remote Essex County.

John Harrigan, an outdoor writer from Colebrook, New Hampshire, thinks the Vermont route makes more sense.

(Harrigan) "It's a pretty place. And I've been there, and I've hunted and fished there, but that's a done deal. Why come down through here?"

(Dillon) Harrigan says his opposition is not based on "not in my backyard" sentiment. He says the economic engine of northern New Hampshire is tourism now that paper companies and other manufacturers have left the area.

(Harrigan) "We have nothing left except that scenery. And that's the only thing left to keep us going here in regards to tourism. And to us it's just unconscionable that anybody would threaten the last asset that we have."

(Dillon) The Northern Pass project is being developed by large utilities in of Hartford, Connecticut, and Boston.

Martin Murray is a spokesman for the project. Murray says the line was mapped out in New Hamsphire to avoid conserved forest land.

(Murray) "But we're talking about New Hampshire's North Country and the reality is there is a lot of protected conserved land in the North Country. If you draw a line from A to B from Quebec to southern New Hampshire it might be impossible to avoid touching any of that land. But great pain was taken to lessen the impact to such lands as much as possible."

(Dillon) Murray says that taking the power line through Vermont was considered but rejected. He says another right of way would have to be cleared parallel to the existing Vermont route to accommodate the new power line.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.

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