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24-mile right of way leaves future uncertain

Tucked away in the long list of 61 individual parcels acquired or leased by Northern Pass is a vague description of land in Dixville, Millsfield and Dummer, leased for an undisclosed amount from Bayroot LLC, one of the largest private timberland owners in New England.

The lease through 2017 is for development of a transmission line and a wind energy facility, with an option to extend for 98 years.

“It’s a 24-mile right of way through Bayroot land, from the Dixville-Stewarstown line, down to Dummer,” said Will Abbott, vice president for policy and land management at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “The lease agreement between Bayroot and Northern Pass appears to bind the two parties together for a joint venture of developing a new wind project up in Northern Coos County on other land owned by Bayroot.”

According to Eversource-NH president Bill Quinlan, there is no quid pro quo that suggests a joint wind project in return for the lease.

“It’s not as direct as that,” he said. “That was a long-term lease conveyed from Bayroot to the company principally for purposes of developing a transmission line. Secondarily, we’ve left open the option of pursuing with some third party a potential wind development. There’s nothing specific contemplated, and no partnership contemplated with Bayroot. It’s not something we’re thinking about pursuing, but the terms of the lease do allow for such a development.”

Talk like that raises the concern that some of the land acquired for Northern Pass and now not needed could still end up hosting utility-scale operations.

“One of the fears of people who live up there is even if this land is all abandoned today, if HydroQuebec wants to sell more power in the future, what’s to prevent Northern Pass or anyone else from acquiring the rights to do a power line through there. They own land that constitutes a route,” said Abbott.

The key question will be whether Eversource releases all rights to the land, which will take months, if not years, to determine.

“At this point, we’re really not contemplating a transmission line along these parcels,” said Quinlan. “We’ve got a secure route that we intend to use, so I’d say that’s unlikely.”