Potential Impacts: How will this project affect you?
Communities on the proposed route
- The proposed transmission line will travel 187 miles from the Canadian border (Pittsburg, NH) to Deerfield, NH.
- The first 147 miles of the line will be high-voltage direct current (DC), meaning that communities and power plants cannot “plug into” the line to obtain or sell electric power.
- The line will join the regional electric grid in Franklin, where DC will be converted to AC (alternating current), which can be used in homes and businesses, at a new converter terminal to be built as part of the project. A new AC line will continue on from Franklin to an existing substation in Deerfield.
- The developer, Northern Pass Transmission LLC, has identified a “study area” that includes many more communities on either side of the proposed route. View a map of this area.
Scenic landscapes, forests, and wetlands
- The proposal would clear more than 40 miles of entirely new corridors (known as “rights of way”) and may require widening rights of way where smaller transmission lines now run.
- The project would run through many scenic landscapes, including forested and open areas in the North Country, the White Mountains and central New Hampshire. Affected areas would include the White Mountain National Forest, private conservation lands, the Pondicherry division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and many miles of wetlands. Structures supporting the wires would be located, on average, every 800 feet along the line and may require filling wetland areas in some places.
- The proposed towers for the project are as high as 155 feet and would be visible from many miles away. Where the lines would cross rural or open country, they would often be the only large-scale industrial infrastructure. Scenic vistas and other “viewsheds,” such as areas of land visible from highways, historic sites, villages and farms, would be affected.
Wildlife, plants, and habitats
- The Northern Pass project could have significant impacts on wildlife and their habitats. Clearing or expanding transmission line corridors would remove large amounts of vegetation from the route and would alter forest, wetlands and other wilderness habitats, potentially interfering with nesting, feeding and other important animal behaviors.
- The effects on threatened and endangered species of plants and animals must receive special consideration. State records show reports of state-protected species and other species at risk along the project route, including northern harrier, peregrine falcon, northern black racer, wild comfrey, golden fruited sedge, muskflower, Kalm’s lobelia, Pickering’s bluejoint and wild lupine.
Recreation and tourism
- New Hampshire, particularly the North Country and the White Mountains, are world-renowned destinations for tourists and outdoor recreation. New Hampshire’s pastoral landscapes, wilderness areas, and rural character are major draws for visitors.
- Without a doubt, the project would affect the scenic character of affected areas along the proposed route and could also have major economic implications for the tourism industry, as visitors choose other destinations with rural and mountain scenery that is unimpaired by large power lines.
Economy and taxes
- During construction, the project would be a major development project, with at least some additional employment and collateral benefits for the local economy, where workers would patronize service businesses and eateries. Local communities may also see additional property tax revenues from taxable infrastructure, and there may be additional opportunities for municipal revenue through fees or other mechanisms.
- The potential economic benefits associated with construction of the project are largely in the short term. Once the infrastructure is in place, relatively few workers will be required for operation and maintenance of the project. A limited number of permanent jobs may be generated at the Franklin converter terminal or for maintenance and inspection of the project as a whole.
- The project may depress valuations of property in the vicinity or in view of the project. There is already evidence from the North Country that the proposal of the project has resulted in substantial reductions in property values and chilled sales. The net effect of the project on local tax bases is extremely unclear.
Environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale hydropower
- Hydroelectric power, or hydropower, involves harnessing the gravitational force of water flowing through rivers and streams to turn turbines, which then generate electric power. In many cases, hydropower involves damming natural water bodies, which inundates upland areas upstream of the dam.
- The energy to be transmitted by the Northern Pass project is part of a major, ongoing expansion of Hydro-Québec’s hydroelectric power facilities. This expansion effort includes Québec’s “Plan Nord,” an $80 billion development plan for Québec’s northern region. Historically, Hydro-Québec’s inundation of lands for the generation of hydroelectric power caused significant environmental degradation and the destruction of indigenous Native American communities.
- In addition, inundation of lands causes significant greenhouse gas emissions as vegetation and other biological material decompose underwater, and other greenhouse gases are released from inundated soils. A full accounting of the climate change implications of Hydro-Québec’s generation is absolutely critical to understanding the environmental impacts of the Northern Pass project.
- According to a CLF-commissioned report summarizing the most recent science on the greenhouse gas emissions of hydropower, large-scale hydropower, especially new reservoirs, is worse for the climate than Northern Pass’s developers have claimed, with substantial greenhouse gas emissions that are comparable to those of modern natural gas-fired power plants. According to an analysis by the developer, the current Northern Pass proposal would substitute hydropower for natural gas in New England’s energy mix. As a result, the project won’t reduce emissions by much if any, especially in the near term.
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