Northern Pass is continuing its buying of land in the North Country and has recently surpassed $14 million in purchases, according to a review of Coos County property records.
Meanwhile, Northern Pass officials said they are moving closer to declaring a route for the 1,200-megawatt, $1.1 billion hydroelectric transmission line being proposed by Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH).
About 40 miles of new right-of-way in Coos County is being sought.
According to a press statement released Tuesday on the Northern Pass web site, “Northeast Utilities executives today expressed confidence that the Northern Pass project is on track and moving forward.
“In a call with financial analysts, NU noted that significant progress has been made working with landowners to identify a new route north of Groveton, and that a filing with federal regulators is expected by the end of the year,” said NU executives. “The project plans to increase and intensify its community outreach process to complement that filing.”
Of Northern Pass’s two property buying subsidiaries – Renewable Properties Inc. and Properties Inc. – Renewable Properties has been the most active in Coos County and has been purchasing land at several times market value. Since February alone, Northern Pass has bought more than $8 million in property, according to the Coos County Registry of Deeds.
“Things are looking very good,” project spokesman Martin Murray, of PSNH, said Tuesday. “We’ve made significant progress in acquiring the land or easements we need to propose a new route. The finish line is in sight.”
If the project meets state and federal approvals, the projected completion date is by the end of 2016 or some time in 2017, said Murray.
If approved, the 180-mile long hydroelectric transmission line would stretch from the Canadian border to Franklin and require towers from 90 to 135 feet high.
The power produced would be sold onto the New England Power Pool, said Murray.
The Northern Pass proposal was presented to residents last year during several scoping meetings hosted by representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which is reviewing information for an Environmental Impact Statement.
Much opposition was expressed during those meetings.
“People didn’t agree with the route proposed originally and challenged us to go back to the drawing board,” said Murray.
Since then, he said, Northern Pass has decided to work with Coos County landowners and find landowners agreeable to a proposed route that as much as possible would reduce the visual impact of the line.
“We’re trying to find a way to connect to the existing right-of-way in Groveton to a border crossing while keeping the line out of sight as much as we can,” said Murray.
In April 2011, Northern Pass submitted scoping comments stating it has been working to identify additional routing alternatives in the northern portion of the proposed route, said DOE spokeswoman Niketa Kumar.
“In anticipation of this information, DOE reopened the public scoping period for an indefinite period starting June 15, 2011,” Kumar said. “DOE will determine the close of the scoping period once any additional routing information is received from Northern Pass. We continue to receive public scoping comments on the proposal.”
Proponents of the project say it will create jobs, add to the tax base in the communities the line passes through and provide green energy.
Opponents say a high-voltage line through the North Country would reduce property values and blight the natural landscape and send power through New Hampshire that is not needed in New Hampshire.
The largest land purchase to date took place May 31, when Kevin Edwards, of Greensboro, N.C., sold more than 300 acres in Stewartstown to Renewable Properties for $2.125 million, according to Coos County property records.
The second largest purchase occurred July 13, when Northern Pass purchased two Stewartstown tracts, one totaling 40 acres, from Laurie Hodgman, of Stewartstown, for $2 million.
On Feb. 14, according to the registry, Floyd Richardson Jr. and Barbara McKenna, of Somersworth, Mass., sold a 105-acre tract in Stewartstown for $535,000.
On Feb. 29, Monda Placey, of Colebrook, and Suzanne Fournier, of Londonderry, sold about 80 acres to Northern Pass for $700,000.
On March 15, Northern Pass bought a tract in Stewartstown from David and Robin Sage, of Colebrook, for $500,000, according to records.
On April 4, Ned and B.G. White, of Milton, sold a tract in Clarksville for $450,000.
Also on April 4, John and Jean Lugli, of West Hartford, Conn., sold a tract in Clarksville for $150,000. That same day, Jean Lugli and Dencie Donovan, of Flordia, sold another Clarksville tract for $550,000.
On April 5, deeds records show Brent and Mary Beth Washburn, of Concord, sold land in Pittsburg for $506,000.
On July 5, Ricky and Juliette Morin, of Belmont, sold a tract in Stewartstown for $200,000.
On July 10, Armand Boisvert, of East Andover, sold land in Stewartstown for $160,000.
Most recently, on July 27, Mary Ball, of Lancaster, sold a tract in Stewartstown for $250,000, according to the registry.
Records also show that on Feb. 6 Northern Pass entered into an option to purchase an easement in Clarksville from Norman Cloutier, of Stratford, and Albert Cloutier Jr., of Stark, that may be exercised any time before Dec. 31, 2014.
Murray said, “We are pretty excited about the future announcement of a new proposed route and the chance to talk with more members of the community about what we have or will propose and talk about the benefits we sincerely believe will be shared with the people of New Hampshire.”
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