December 30, 2010

NHPR Story on Northern Pass

Here's a link to NHPR's story about the growing opposition to the Northern Pass proposal. I'd offer one correction to the story--as much as the corporate interests behind Northern Pass would like us all to believe differently, it's not at all a given that this project will be built.

December 20, 2010

Power-line Project Nets Intervenors (Concord Monitor)


Concord, NH, Dec. 15—The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is filing today a motion to intervene with the Department of Energy (DOE) in opposition to the Northern Pass power-line project as currently proposed.

“For more than a century the Forest Society has worked to promote the wise use of New Hampshire’s forests, and their complete protection in places of special scenic beauty,” said Jane Difley, president/forester.

“The formal review process for deciding whether or not Northern Pass is ultimately in the interest of the public will be a long one, and there are many questions still to be answered surrounding a variety of environmental, economic, and energy-related issues,” Difley said.

“However, the proposal to clear at least 40 miles of new power-line right-of-way through public and private forestland in the North Country, including the many conserved lands within the proposed corridor, would not appear to be in the best interests of New Hampshire’s forests nor the tourism-based economy those forested landscapes help support,” Difley said. “We will be advocating eliminating or minimizing the construction of new transmission corridors. We believe there are other alternatives that should be considered.”

The filing notes: In the New Hampshire municipalities impacted directly by the Northern Pass project as proposed, the Forest Society holds conservation easements on 89 separate properties protecting 18,660 acres of land, and we own 18 forest reservations totaling 5,269 acres. …It is premature to determine the number of these conserved acres that would be adversely impacted by the proposed project, but it is not too early to suggest that some of these lands and the critical conservation values for which they were protected would be permanently altered by the project in ways that would violate existing conservation easements and reduce their commensurate public benefit.

The Forest Society is also concerned about impacts from potential expansion of the existing right-of-way through the White Mountain National Forest. We believe that the multiple uses for which these lands were conserved in the public interest do not include being a host for any new commercial power projects, including 10 miles of new high elevation towers as proposed by the Northern Pass.

The Forest Society is a private, non-profit membership organization established in 1901. It currently holds more than 700 conservation easements statewide permanently protecting 100,000 acres of New Hampshire’s landscape from further subdivision or development. The Forest Society also own 50,000 acres of land outright in 170 reservations in 95 New Hampshire communities, including the Washburn Family Forest in Clarksville and The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem.

December 18, 2010

VPR on Hydro-Quebec

Vermont Public Radio's John Dillon did some reporting this past summer on Hydro-Quebec and the move to export electricity to the U.S.

Considering the Vermont Alternative

Wrecking What Little We Have Left

by John Harrigan

Well, for this one I had to wait to get myself even more indignant. I’ve been biding my time on this whole powerline issue, figuring that I should just shut up and let other people have their say. And boy, have they. Never in my 63 years on the planet have I seen North Country friends and neighbors so indignant about an issue as the proposed gigantic powerline to connect supposedly “green” Quebec Hydro power to the insatiable power-hungry masses to the south.

(This project evidently seems to be not even a blip on the radar screen for media and consumers to the south. It would involve a whole new 40-mile or so “right of way”---read that “scar,”---smack down through the Connecticut Lakes headwaters and the Pittsburg-Colebrook-Stratford-Lancaster region, 150 feet or more wide, with towers from 90 to 135 feet tall.)

So having cranked myself up to get even more indignant, and having written about this monstrous proposal only once, and no longer being able to keep my mouth shut, I went up the road from the house to the T where South Hill meets the Chet Noyes Road. This story, for the uninitiated, takes place in Colebrook, which is where I live---smack in the middle of Powerline Plan.

This T is the place where the old roads met. Well, where two out of the three old roads still meet. The T overlooks some of the most beautiful country left in the Northeast. This is where the powerline would go.

There was a stagecoach tavern here at the T, which was then a cross. Its site is in between the South Hill Cemetery and where Boots Bouchard lives. There are Balm of Gileads around the stone foundation of the tavern. A discerning eye can see where South Hill Road met North Hill Road, across Bear Rock Valley. Old Metallak, the last chief of the Coashaukees, from which Coös County (pronounced Co-oss) got its name, is buried right there on North Hill. It’s near Angevines’. I wonder how near to Metallak’s grave the powerline would pass. If I were a Coashaukee, and I often feel that I am, I’d be singing the Indian Death Song.

This is the probable place where, if this huge powerline project being planned, which few in the state Down Below seem to comprehend, is planned to go. I stood there on South Hill, looking at North Hill, and thinking about the unthinking consumers far below the notches. How can such an abomination as this gigantic powerline be actually considered? Do the people who take such pleasure in carbon-trading and supposed “sustainable” and “green” anything to reach their 25 percent whatever not have a clue about the trade-off?

(I cannot help myself envisioning people far removed from the reality of the landscape linking arms and swaying and singing “Kumbaya.” Sorry. But do the 25-percent-“green” people have any clue about the price the Montagnais and the Naskapi and the Cree paid for the supposedly “green” hydro-power that we’re supposed to feel good about? This extends to unthinking consumers far below Churchill Falls and the huge hydro-project dams and impoundments at Hudson Bay and elsewhere in the Far North. Who cares? Well, I’ve been there, and seen the price.)

We here in the North Country are at rope’s end. Having lost about all of our industry and not having leadership and knowledge and help from Concord and beyond to explore and fund new ways to make things, which is the way to the future, we have only the landscape left, which is our definition, our heritage, our livelihood, and our meager future. Until we can find a way to begin making things again.

We look to leadership to do better things than bicker about adding another lane to I-93 or grin and pose about another shopping mall or snip a ribbon on a powerline transit station in Franklin (are you reading this, Governor Lynch?). We look for leadership about geography, and history, and territory, and stewardship of the landscape, and where we live.

This powerline proposal is, in the best word I can sum up, horrendous. We should not suffer the loss of our last asset, our beauty and scenery and place of self and place, because of the accident of geography as to where we live. We should not suffer because we happen to exist in an apex, where Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Lower Canada meet, because we are “in the way.”

This isn’t a Not In My Back Yard issue. It is far beyond that. It’s everyone’s back yard, just as the Gulf oil spill was and is everyone’s back yard. This is an issue of Down Below politicians and decision-makers and consumers simply not being aware that there are a lot of miles and scenery and people and heritage and history and economic stakes at risk with this foolish and careless and needless plan to carve a horrendous swath of beautiful country out to satisfy the never-ending consumptive habits of people far to the south.

It is not just that the few jobs (timber clearing, flag-waving) will go to the locals for flash-in the-pan (i.e., short-lived) “economic benefits.” It is not just that the so pathetically hyped town taxes will fall victim to depreciation, which they will. It is not just that the best-paying jobs during the short-lived construction jobs will go to high-tech, specialty firms that will bring in their labor forces from elsewhere. And it is certainly not just that the short-lived spin-off money the area will receive will go for flipping burgers and turning sheets.

There is an existing right of way for hydro power from Canada, down through northeastern Vermont. It was conceived, won and built at great cost. The fact that it went through territory mostly uninhabited and owned mostly by major timber companies made it far easier and more simple than the current proposal, which will involve hundreds of easements and attendant legal wranglings, not to mention the wreckage of some of the most beautiful (and most visited) scenery in the East.

What’s this about? It’s about forcing the utilities’ hand and making them justify not widening the existing corridor down through Vermont to Franklin to tie into the NEPOOL grid, where all of the power and money are going anyway.

But in the end, it is about this spectacular region’s beauty, heritage, and pride. How could anyone conceive of such an offense?

(This column runs in a dozen weekly papers covering the northern two-thirds of New Hampshire and parts of Maine and Vermont. John Harrigan’s address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or