The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has raised the $850,000 needed for its offer to hold conservation restrictions on land needed to build the proposed Northern Pass transmission project.
The society said Jan. 14 that more than 1,500 donors were involved. “[W]e had no inkling that the public interest [in] protecting these 5,800 acres would be so strong,” Jane Difley, the society’s president, said in the statement.
The society said interest in the Basalms conservation project ballooned when Northern Pass “attempted to interfere with the transaction, arguing that siting its proposed private, commercial HVDC overhead transmission line project was a better fit.”
The society said its staff and attorneys are working on the paperwork required to complete the transaction shortly.
The Northern Pass Transmission is a limited liability company organized as a joint venture between Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU) and NSTAR (NYSE:NST) to develop, construct, own and maintain the $1.1bn DC line in New Hampshire. The line between the U.S. and Canada would import 1,200 MW of Canadian hydropower, specifically from Hydro-Québec.
The Northern Pass on Jan. 14 noted it had offered to purchase the conservation easement, if the sale to the society did not occur, and that the project offered the Tillotson Trust an additional $2.2m for a designated utility right of way in the northern tip of the Balsalms property, and for a non-contiguous parcel in West Stewartstown.
The Tillotson Corporation, which has long been the owner of the hotel and surrounding land, recently sold the fee ownership of the hotel and most of the land to individuals who are going to renovate the hotel.
“[W]e believe the use of the utility right of way by Northern Pass could co-exist hand-in-hand with the conservation effort, building jobs, ensuring the continuation of a working forest and bringing clean renewable power to New Hampshire and the region,” the Northern Pass said. “The additional $2.2m could have been used by the Trust to help meet its objective of providing economic benefit to the North Country.”
The Northern Pass said it is continuing to successfully work with landowners as it considers other routing alternatives. “We look forward to soon announcing a new proposed route that has the support of underlying land owners.”
The Northern Pass also said that, separate from the specific utility right of way that the society will obtain, the Tillotson Trust has retained the right to build transmission structures and access roads anywhere on the property, including the society conserved land, in order to connect to wind turbines on two parcels of land, abutting the Basalms, that the Trust has retained for the future construction of wind farms.
“[A]s with the future wind farms at the Basalms, the developer is responsible for constructing the corridors and structures to connect to the existing transmission system; PSNH is responsible for then making the connection,” the Northern Pass said.
State lawmakers have proposed a bill, relating to the Northern Pass project, that prohibits a public utility from petitioning for permission to take private property for the construction or operation of a private large-scale transmission line.
One of the bill’s sponsors, state Rep. Rick Ladd, could not be immediately reached for comment Jan. 17.
According to the Associated Press, the state Senate is to vote on the bill this week.