Northern Pass Scoping Hearing: Sugar Hill speaks!

Scoping hearings on the Northern Pass transmission line were held in the region by the federal Dept. of Energy. At the Whitefield hearing nearly 400 people turned out, including a number of Sugar Hill residents and ACT members. Following are statements by Margo Connors, Chris Thayer, and Rebecca Brown.

Margo Connors, representing Sugar Hill Select Board and Conservation Commission

The town of Sugar Hill is concerned that there may be serious negative environmental impacts associated with the proposed NP Transmission line, which would pass through our community. Our town presently has 7 miles of existing ROW with a single row of towers carrying AC lines. This ROW is projected to be widened from its current cut width of 150 feet to a minimum width of 225 feet with the new HVDC towers added. We ask that you give serious consideration to the points we raise in order to provide our town the fullest protection possible from the EIS phase of the permitting process.

Sugar Hill developed a series of maps in 2008 that show the town’s most valued natural resources. The Selectmen and Conservation Commission have examined the proposed Northern Pass route against our natural resource co-occurrence maps and we believe that the following factors should be addressed in the Department of Energy environmental impact study. It is important that the EIS consider the inherent physical changes brought by  towers, lines and clearing of the right of way, the electromagnetic field generated by the proposed power line as well as the noise.

1.Conservation Land – The Northern Pass proposed ROW impacts 6 conservation land easements, including the Sugar Hill Town Forest, which constitutes about half the conserved acreage in town. We are too small to absorb that blow. We ask that the study evaluate habitat fragmentation and specifically the impact of the power line on wildlife corridors, bird nesting environments, and mammal reproduction on these conserved lands.

NP also cuts through 2 large un-fragmented land parcels that are shared with the town of Lisbon (Streeter Pond and Gale River areas) as well as the towns of Easton and Landaff (the Coal Hill area).  We ask that DOE consider the intent of conserved land, that is, to preserve land in its natural state and address the question of whether the presence of industrial infrastructure negatively impacts its conservation value.

2. Water Resources – The proposed power line would impact half the length of the Salmon Hole Brook and it would cross the Gale River.  The Right of Way would cross or abut large areas of hydric soils and wetlands. It could negatively impact amphibians and vernal pools and migratory waterfowl on the Gale River and Streeter Pond. It would impact the riparian zones in the northern and western sections of town. The EIS should address all of these features of wetlands impacts.

3. Forest – The NP Power Line would impact a significant portion of Sugar Hill forest land, fragmenting tracts, disrupting wildlife, altering communities,  and reducing the many benefits our town derives from un-fragmented forest. The EIS should evaluate the total effect on forest land.

4. Recreation – We ask that you evaluate the impact of the proposed line on our recreational trails, lands and waterways that are currently used by school groups, the historical museum, the library, 4-H, the tri-town recreation program, hikers, skiers, fishermen and year round tourists.  Recreation land is one of the major facets of our economy. So we specifically ask that you assess the visual and the auditory impact of these proposed lines.

5. Farmland – We fear that the power line will reduce farm development in Sugar Hill. The proposed line crosses areas of prime agricultural soil and existing farms. It would reduce the potential for new farms by fragmenting parcels and cause concern for the health and wellbeing of livestock (danger, noise, electromagnetic effects, etc.). It has also come to our attention that electric and magnetic fields can negatively impact soil bacteria. These factors should be included in the EIS.

6. Public Safety, Public Health, Accidents – would PSNH be able to handle the bisecting of towns and interstate highways if there were downed overhead lines in severe weather or natural disasters? What are the health risks associated with HVDC lines? We have learned that childhood leukemia and brain cancer have been associated with this form of transmission. We also fear that the constant noise emitted by these lines pose a risk to health and well-being.

We urge the US Department of Energy to carefully look at these issues and consider all of the alternatives  to Northern Pass.  Does importing this power benefit Sugar Hill or NH? Is it needed? Should it be built at all?

On March 8, 2011 the town of Sugar Hill voted unanimously to oppose Northern Pass at its annual Town Meeting. It is the town’s responsibility to preserve our community for future generations.

Statement by Rebecca Brown

I’m Rebecca Brown. I live in Sugar Hill, and I am representing myself and my organization, the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust, which is the North Country’s regional land conservancy.

Like many people, when I first heard about the Northern Pass proposal I preformed a mental calculus of pros and cons. Pros: renewable, low cost energy, suposedly with low carbon impact. Cons: huge towers going through my front yard. Conclusion: For the greater good we’ve all got to sacrifice or at least compromise a little to get “green” power. I’d live with the towers.

I was wrong. It is clear to me now, with more information, that Northern Pass is wrong for the North Country, wrong for New Hampshire, wrong for the economy, and wrong for the environment.  No alternatives would make it right for New Hampshire. In terms of public benefits, technology, economy, and public policy, this project does not add up.

It is now well known (from PSNH itself) that New Hampshire does not need power from Hydro-Québec. Northern Pass does not represent a public policy initiative. It is a private, corporate market share initiative. The greatest beneficiary of this project (after Hydro-Québec) is Public Service of New Hampshire. PSNH has been losing market share for years. It is a failing corporation. Northern Pass represents a last gasp effort to boost its revenues, at the expense of our region. Northern Pass is like a private toll road cut through the heart of the North Country – a toll road with no exits and no on ramps. We would not receive the power, nor could we use the lines to export our locally generated power.

Northern Pass unplugs incentives for locally produced biomass energy in the North Country. Biomass plants are teetering on shutting down. These plants employ our North Country people, using wood chips transported by our truckers, from trees cut by our loggers, in forests marked by our foresters, on land owned by North Country people who need financial return in order to manage their forests for the long term.  In return, Northern Pass predicts temporary construction jobs, with no guarantee that hiring is local.

The Department of Energy should require a detailed analysis of the impact of Northern Pass on other energy alternatives including biomass and wind.

Northern Pass is dangling financial incentives for local communities. For cash strapped towns and taxpayers, this may appear an enticing carrot. But long term, these transmission lines are sure to cost towns and taxpayers far more than increased revenue provided upfront. The tax losses from abatements for severely diminished property values, the real estate sales and investment in new or improved homes that will not take place because of this devaluing, plus the ripple effect of these losses in economic activity, may far exceed additional revenues from the lines, especially as line values depreciate.

The Department of Energy should require an expert, objective analysis of the economic impact of the transmission lines.

In conclusion, Northern Pass represents yesterday’s technology trying to solve tomorrow’s needs.  Many energy experts describe a host of innovations in use now, coming to market, or in design that significantly improve the efficiency and lessen the environmental impact of power generation and transmission. It is likely that within a few decades, these enormous towers will be relics of a bygone era. Yet their scar on our landscape will continue. Therefore, while there are studies the DOE might do, I urge the Department take no action on this permit application. It is the wrong project, the wrong place, and the wrong time.

Thank you.

Statement by Chris Thayer

Thank you for this opportunity to provide public comment. My name is Chris Thayer. My wife Wendy and I along with our two boys 4 year old Tucker and 16 month old Riley live on Hadley Road in Sugar Hill. Our home of 9 years complete with small frog pond, wildlife paths, and organic garden lies on the preferred route planned for the Northern Pass Power Transmission Project as it passes through our town on existing ROW. We stand in opposition to the project as currently proposed for the following reasons:

* The expansive metal towers ranging in height from 90 to 135 feet tall will scar the scenic landscape of our town and region affecting quality of life, diminishing

property values and town tax bases and our reputation as a scenic rural destination.

I respectfully request the Department of Energy to evaluate all project alternatives including that of no action that allows our northern region to retain the natural assets that have been the lifeblood of local citizens and the source of inspiration and spiritual renewal for all over countless generations.

* The taller towers proposed for carrying the high voltage direct current aerial

transmission lines will necessitate widening existing ROWs including the possible use of eminent domain to do so – and will allow for additional capacity in the future. I respectfully request the Department of Energy and related federal agencies to perform due diligence in studying the impacts to wildlife, wetlands, forest resources, communities, and recreation areas along the proposed routes including most significantly the White Mountain National Forest – a public land area with more annual visitation than Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks combined.

* Information to date concerning the project has been incomplete, troubling, or at best inaccurate including the estimate of permanent jobs created, estimates of electricity cost reductions to rate payers, estimates of tax payments to towns by utilities, and the presentation of the overall project as ʻgreenʼ energy aimed at meeting the stateʼs carbon reduction goals. I respectfully request the Department of Energy to set the standard for an open, and transparent process that ensures the public interest is on equal footing with corporate interests.

* Published health affects of living on or near high voltage direct current aerial

transmission lines are alarming including higher risks associated with childhood

leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia in adults – our local Profile High School lies directly on the preferred transmission route affecting the children of our entire tri-town region. I respectfully request the Department of Energy to perform due diligence in studying and reporting on the full affects of such transmission lines on surrounding populations and communities including proposals for mitigation as accomplished elsewhere in the US and Europe.

* The proposed project does not consider 21st century solutions aimed at protecting the regionʼs heritage, scenic landscape, and people while providing a model for energy transmission in the United States – in short burying the lines as is currently being done elsewhere in the Northeast should be final consideration. I respectfully request the Department of Energy to challenge those involved in the proposal of this project to put energy innovation and community benefit before shareholder value or profit.

On behalf of my family and along with others in our community and surrounding North Country region, we stand firmly against this project as presented and ask that this public process produce a result that serves the best interests of the state of New Hampshire and those of us who are lucky enough to call it home.

 

 

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