By Beth Daley
Developers today announced a new, more easterly route of a proposed controversial transmission line that will carry hydro power from Canada to Southern New England.
Two northern New Hampshire sections totaling just under 8 miles of the 187-mile Northern Pass project will now be constructed underground. The project had run into major roadblocks from environmentalists and residents, who argued it would scar an unbroken vista of rolling hills, forests and farms. Some groups launched an effort in recent years to buy land before developers could, while other residents refused to sell.
"(Burying the lines) is very expensive; it is not something you do lightly," said Gary Long, president and chief operation officer of Public Service of New Hampshire, a subsidiary of the project's parent company Northeast Utilities. The company had originally said it would propose a new route six months ago. "We have worked hard to develop a new proposal that is better for New Hampshire and responsive to feedback we've received," Long said.
The Northern Pass project has raised a host of economic and environmental issues comparable in New England only to the deeply controversial Cape Wind project that proposes to place 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound.
First proposed in 2010, the Northern Pass project is a partnership between Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec. Some 147 miles of the proposed corridor, including a portion through the White Mountains, is already an existing Public Service right of way. But there had been no right-of-way for the most northernmost 40 or so miles that the project needed.
The new route, Long said, goes through less populated areas and will make the project less visible. The project would bring 1,200 megawatts of energy into New England and, developers say, 1,200 jobs during construction.
Environmentalists said the project is now relying more heavily on state and other public lands, yet Northern Pass has not been given any authority to run the line on - or under - those lands yet.
"The new route has the same flaws that have doomed the project to date, primarily the lack of consideration for the communities that would unnecessarily bear all of the burden of the project and none of the benefit,'' said N. Jonathan Peress, Vice President and director, Clean Energy and Climate Change for Conservation Law Foundation.
Globe correspondent Evan Berkowitz contributed to this report.
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