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Balsams project moves forward with filing of river water-use permit for snowmaking

DIXVILLE – The rebirth of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel moved forward this week with the developer applying to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services for permission to pull water from the Androscoggin River to fuel snow-making operations at the expanded Wilderness Ski Area.

“This is a significant step for us,” said Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Less Otten, the former ski-industry executive who is leading the effort to bring the Balsams back to life.

On Wednesday, Bethel, Maine-based Dixville Capital LLC submitted an application to the DES for permission to withdraw up to 2.9 million cubic feet of water within a 24-hour period from the Androscoggin at a location in Errol, just north of the intersection of Routes 16 and 26.

The water would be drawn on an as-needed basis between Nov. 1 and March 15.

The water-use permit is one of several that are necessary for The Balsams project to move forward, said Tranchemontagne on Thursday, adding that Otten intends to soon file a wetlands application with the DES.

Tranchemontagne hopes the permits are considered in a timely manner, adding that the success of the new, improved and greatly enlarged Balsams resort rests on construction being able to get underway quickly.

“We must be building by spring,” said Tranchemontagne, echoing Otten who has said that there is a limited window to entice former and future guests to the Balsams, which has been closed since December 2011.

Asked whether the water permit application is an indication that Otten has reached an accord with Brookfield Power, a Canadian company that operates a wind farm in Dixville and neighboring Millsfield, Tranchemontagne replied that the parties have had a “good conversation.”

Otten has maintained that the expansion of the Wilderness Ski Area would be extremely difficult unless the safety setbacks could be reduced between it and Brookfield’s wind turbines.

Tranchemontagne said there could be an agreement between Brookfield and the Balsams to regulate operation of the turbines on those few days when the risk of ice and snow being flung from their blades was greatest.