For every paperback version of Loon Cove sold from August 30 through October 31, 2012, I will donate $7.00 to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in support of their fundraiser to purchase 1,500 acres in Coos County. Orders must be placed through my publisher here or you may simply click on the book icon at the upper right corner of this page. CreateSpace is prepared to fulfill your order promptly.
Appalachian Mountain Club Study Identifies Significant Visual Impacts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Sept. 26, 2012
COOS COUNTY, N.H. – The proposed Northern Pass electric transmission line project would have a significant visual impact on such resources of state and national significance as Franconia Notch State Park, Pawtuckaway State Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the White Mountain National Forest, according to a visual impact analysis released today by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).
Visual impacts could severely affect the North Country’s most valuable asset—its scenery—and its importance in drawing tourists to the region. Tourism spending is a critical economic driver in the region.
The analysis also revealed that the widening of an existing 120-mile transmission corridor up to 410 feet, and construction of additional towers up to 135 feet, could visually impact 95,000 acres in New Hampshire, including 3,000 acres in the White Mountain National Forest and six scenic outlooks and a trail crossing along the Appalachian Trail. Undocumented in AMC’s analysis are the visual impacts for the northernmost segment of the project, because 60 or more miles of the route have yet to be identified by Northern Pass.
AMC filed its findings with the Department of Energy (DOE) Sept. 25 as an addendum to its earlier scoping comments. DOE is one of three agencies (two federal and one state) that must rule on permits being sought by Northern Pass, LLC, and the project applicant.
Visual impacts of the project would also affect such public resources as the Pondicherry Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, as well as four rivers and four scenic and cultural byways specially designated by the state of New Hampshire. Many towns could also be visually impacted, according to AMC’s study. Visual impacts may affect more than 9,000 acres in Concord and more than 5,000 acres in Jefferson and Whitefield.
AMC conducted the visual impact assessment this summer in response to the lack of any visual data in the Northern Pass permit application to DOE. “That DOE had advanced this application to the public scoping phase without any visual impact analysis for public review is highly unusual for an environmental review process and, to date, has left this data void for the public to fill. This is very unfair to the public,” said Kenneth D. Kimball, Ph.D., director of research for the Appalachian Mountain Club.
“It is paramount that the permit reviewing agencies now guarantee that a thorough and honest assessment of the visual impacts of this proposal be conducted and used in the decision-making process,” Kimball said.[emphases added.]
AMC’s analysis followed U.S. Forest Service-accepted principles for scenery impact analysis and used best available information and computer modeling to determine the degree of potential impact and to identify high-priority viewpoints where site-specific analysis should be done properly, once Northern Pass makes available its actual engineering plans. AMC’s models used conservative parameters, assuming tower heights of only 90 feet, although they could be as high as 135 feet. Screening of views by the forest was also considered. Kimball noted the analysis could not model necessary increases in existing corridor widths, since the applicant has not made that site-specific data publicly available, with the exception of new tower information just recently announced in regard to a 10-mile corridor through the White Mountain National Forest.
“Northern Pass’s release last week of a plan to replace approximately 50- foot-high wooden towers with 85-foot-high steel monopole towers and additional 85-foot-high steel lattice towers in the section proposed to run through the White Mountain National Forest would not alter in any practical way the results of the AMC study,” he said.
The AMC visual impact study only focused on the known 120-mile corridor, examining cumulative impacts to the state, considering how individual towns might be visually impacted, and identifying priority sites where standard visual assessment tools, such as photo simulations, should be conducted as part of the permitting process.
AMC field-checked its analysis with site visits to nearly 90 of 140 vantage points that were identified in the known corridor to have scenic viewpoints of state or national significance. Such areas include specific viewpoints on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, vistas along the I-93 gateway section to Franconia Notch, and the popular Mount Pemigewasset vista on the border of the White Mountain National Forest and Franconia Notch State Park. “It is clear from the study that the proposed Northern Pass transmission corridor is of sufficient size to be an incongruous industrial intrusion on the natural appearance of the surrounding landscape,” Kimball said.
Though not part of its application materials to DOE, Northern Pass posted 12 visual simulation photographs on its website in 2011, noting that they were “prepared to help inform community officials and members of the public as to what the project might look like.”
“Unfortunately,” said Kimball, “their simulated views appear to have been chosen without a strong rationale and did not take into account many viewpoints of state and national significance within the project area. Furthermore, the timing and locations of the photo simulations on Northern Pass’s website are problematic. For example, one of the photos is taken on a late October afternoon when the project corridor is within the shadow line at dusk – hardly representative relative to basic visual assessment protocol, if informing the public was their purpose,” Kimball said.
Northern Pass, LLC, is a venture of Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire. Northern Pass is seeking permit approval to construct an above-ground, 140-mile or longer 350 kV high-voltage DC power transmission line through New Hampshire to transmit up to 1,200 megawatts of power generated by Canada’s Hydro-Quebec to a power converter station in Franklin, N.H. The DC power is then to be converted to AC and would need an additional 40-mile transmission line to connect to a network power distribution grid in Deerfield, N.H., for further distribution.
AMC’s visual impact assessment study was funded in part by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which has no position on the Northern Pass project.
A link to AMC’s visual assessment, as well as more information on AMC’s position on the Northern Pass, can be found here.
Link to news release with photos: here.
“Considering all the towns south of Whitefield within the 10-mile buffer area, nearly 95,000 acres are exposed to at least one tower.”
Previewed in Easton at the White Mountain National Forest ~ Northern Pass meeting on Sunday, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Visual Impact Assessment was filed as an additional 38-page scoping comment with the DOE today. It necessarily refers only to the known proposed 120-mile route from Whitefield south.
In view of the project developer’s failure to include any information containing visual impacts in its Presidential Permit application, the AMC calls for the DOE to conduct a full scale visual assessment and offers its recommendations concerning such a study:
“In our [earlier] comments we specifically highlighted the need for a quality visual assessment. In the absence of basic visual impact information in the Northern Pass Application of October 2010 and none since, the AMC undertook a Northern Pass visual impact assessment based on best available information. We hereby submit for the record as an addendum to our June 14, 2011 Scoping Document comments our visual impact assessment and recommendations contained within. Our study includes both a reasonable approximation of important resources and viewpoints that would be visual impacted and cumulative impacts at different scales. We also provide specific recommendations on how the Department of Energy should conduct its final visual assessment once site-specific information for the northern corridor, reasonable alternatives, tower heights and corridors widths are made available. The information provided is based only on the southernmost 120 miles of the proposed corridor. Absent as of this filing date from the Applicant is a defined corridor for the northernmost component. AMC continues to be baffled as to how DOE accepted the Application as sufficiently complete to advance this project to the public scoping phase of a formal environmental review absent: i.) any specific route for almost one-third of the corridor (aka northern route), ii) sufficient basic environmental data, or iii) any reasonable alternatives proposals. This is a very piecemeal and confusing approach for fair and reasonable review by the public for a project Application of this magnitude. This addendum to our earlier scoping document supplements and does not replace our previous comments. These comments should be included under the current scoping categories of: tourism, cumulative effects, quality of life, viewshed/scenery, recreation and Forest Service Lands.”
While the AMC’s Assessment is not meant to be an in-depth visual analysis but rather to call for one and to suggest its parameters, it does offer visual impact data for the 120-mile known proposed route to legitimate its request, e.g.,
“Overall Impact to New Hampshire from Whitefield to Deerfield
“Considering all the towns south of Whitefield within the 10-mile buffer area, nearly 95,000 acres are exposed to at least one tower; over 32,000 acres are exposed to twenty or more towers and over 40,000 acres are exposed to between 6 and 20 towers. Many of these acres represent a field or other open space that a person walking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hunting or other outdoor activity may be visually exposed to the Project.”
The AMC concludes that:
“The application that was filed for the Northern Pass in October 2010 contained no information related to visual impacts of this project nor has any been provided to date. It was unacceptable for an Application to be submitted without fundamental base information on such an important impact for a project of this magnitude and unfair to the public. The DOE EIS should conduct in depth analyses and consideration of the potential impacts to the most valuable scenic resources that contribute significantly to a $3 billion tourist industry. Based on the time since the Application was submitted and the lack of visual impact data publicly available to date, it would be unreasonable for the Application processes to now use an excuse that a need exists for a timely decision to override how and when appropriate visual analysis should be done in the field. The general public needs and deserves to have thorough, complete, and documented information on visual impacts available before any permit decision is made.
“The set of 12 visual simulations prepared by LandWorks of Middlebury, VT for Northern Pass are faulty and problematic. The rationale for selecting these 12 observation points is not documented. It does notappear that these points are well matched to locations of concern or scenic importance, nor that NP has determined where the most serious impacts will occur. The choice of locations, the time of day, sky conditions, and the perspective of the viewer do not properly or adequately reflect the experience of the viewer when traveling through the region.
“The 10-mile section of the Northern Pass that crosses the White Mountain National Forest has been studied three times before for infrastructure development since the 1970s. In all cases these projects failed to pass muster due in part to the impacts that would have occurred to this designated resource.
“The application review processes must build on this study using site-specific route, tower type, tower height, corridor width, and higher resolution land cover data to thoroughly study scenic impacts.
•Visual impacts must be systematically selected and evaluated for all viewpoints of high public concern. We outline a reasonable strategy for such an approach.
•Impacts must be evaluated both as important viewpoints and for cumulative impacts on specific resources, be they a National Scenic trail, a National Forest, the State and by individual towns as we illustrate in this study.
•Impacts must be evaluated against accepted Scenic Integrity Objectives
• Visual assessments must consider how scenic impacts will influence property values and quality of life.”
This is a very important study authored by an organization with authority, expertise, and credibility. You will hear a lot more about it.
Trees Not Towers Golf Tournament
Come and Play Golf – Be a Sponsor –
Donate an Auction Item
18-Hole Scramble – Fabulous Meal –
Silent & Live Auctions
Entertainment By the Atta Girls
Your participation at any level will help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 to allow the Forest Society to get to the $2.5 Million mark it needs to complete land acquisition and conservation easements in Coos County designed to STOP Northern Pass dead in its tracks!
Proceeds all go to the Society For Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF). Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
Click here for links below to download forms for registration and information.
If You Don’t Play Golf, Then Come Anyway for Dinner, Entertainment and the Auctions! These tickets are available for $75 per person ($50 of the $75 is a tax-deductible donation)
Please register on or before October 9th and be sure to get any auction items into our hands by then as well.
Contact Event Chairman, Tom Mullen at 603-726-3076 ext 219 or Patty Martin at 603-726-3076 ext 217 with any questions.
Bury the lines, Northern Pass
That was the message last week from gubernatorial candidates Hassan and Lamontagne at a debate hosted by New Hampshire media.
Both candidates were asked the same question: “Would you oppose the Northern Pass project if it proves too costly to bury the power lines?
Northeast Utilities and Public Service of New Hampshire, backers of the proposed hydropower line from Canada, have said repeatedly that burying the lines is not feasible because of cost and geography.
Hassan’s answer: “If it proves too costly to bury the power lines and we can’t get community support for another proposal, yes.”
Lamontagne’s reply: “We need to look at what the actual cost benefits are of the project. They should be buried, and that’s what I’m looking for in the next proposal.”
Truth is, the governor does not have veto power over the proposed project or whether the power lines are in the sky or under the earth. Federal and state regulatory boards have that say.
But a governor so inclined could influence the project’s future.
We asked Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray to listen to the candidate’s remarks and respond.
“We share the candidates’ interest in reducing the project’s impact,” he said via email. “The decision to place a high-voltage transmission line underground in the Granite State requires significant consideration of the environmental, economic and reliability challenges it would present. We believe it is too early in the state and federal review processes to make such a determination. We look forward to working with the next governor on these and other energy issues in the months ahead.”
Visual Impact – A Clear-eyed View
Posted on September 21, 2012 by Northern Pass
One of the most common questions asked about the project is “What is it going to look like?”
Fortunately, a process is in place that will provide an accurate answer.
The Northern Pass project will produce a Visual Impact Assessment as part of the State permitting process with the NH Site Evaluation Committee. In addition, we expect the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will prepare its own Visual Impact Assessment as part of the Environmental Impact Statement it prepares in conjunction with the processing of Northern Pass’ application for a Presidential Permit. The Northern Pass project’s Assessment will include an “inventory” of views from public vantage points from which one will be able to see the project—that is, its structures and conductor. Importantly, the Assessment will also include many visual simulations that will accurately portray views of the project from those areas. There will be multiple views, showing the project from various vantage points and at various times, to account for changes in background conditions. The Assessment will follow the guidelines set forth in the U.S. Forest Service’s Landscape Aesthetics – A Handbook for Scenery Management and the National Forest Landscape Management series Volume 2, Chapter 2 entitled Utilities, Utility Vegetation Management.
We raise this issue in part because a staff member of the Appalachian Mountain Club recently provided misleading and inaccurate information to the media about the process of assessing visual impact in the project area and what has been done to date.
To be clear, no Assessment has yet been produced by The Northern Pass.
The visual simulation photographs that have already been produced by The Northern Pass and shared publicly were prepared to help inform community officials and members of the public as to what the project might look like. While the simulations do not constitute a Visual Impact Assessment, and have not been presented as such, they were produced by an expert firm, highly skilled and experienced in the production of Assessments using the U.S. Forest Service criteria.
Data collected by The Northern Pass as part of our analysis will be publicly available and will be provided to the DOE.
EASTON —While Northern Pass officials said they remain confident they have filed paperwork necessary to build a second line next to an existing right-of-way on the White Mountain National Forest, at least one opponent told 150 people Sunday the project does not meet the “high hurdles” of the forest plan.
Jim Dannis of Dalton, an outspoken opponent of the proposed 180-mile power transmission project, said he researched the issue and said there may be ways the project can get around the federal rules, if there is extreme political pressure exerted to get hydro power from Quebec to New England.