New Hampshire SEC issues certificate of approval for Merrimack Valley Reliability Project

Eversource Energy (NYSE:ES) on Oct. 5 said that the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) has issued a certificate of approval for the new overhead 345-kV transmission line to be built in an existing right of way (ROW) between Londonderry, N.H., and Tewksbury, Mass., known as the Merrimack Valley Reliability Project.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved the Massachusetts portion of the project in April.

The project will run along existing utility ROWs, with about 18 miles through Londonderry, Hudson, Windham and Pelham in New Hampshire, and about 6.5 miles through Dracut, Andover and Tewksbury in Massachusetts, for a total length of about 24.5 miles, the company added.

As noted in the SEC’s “decision and order granting application for certificate of site and facility,” New England Power d/b/a National Grid and Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) d/b/a Eversource in August 2015 filed a joint application for a certificate of site and facility with the SEC.

The companies will jointly invest a total of nearly $129m in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to bolster the regional infrastructure, Eversource said in its statement.

The SEC said in its decision that the companies’ application sought the issuance of the certificate approving the siting, construction and operation for a new 345-kV electric line within the existing transmission ROW between the National Grid-owned Tewksbury 22A substation in Tewksbury, and the Eversource-owned Scobie Pond 345-kV substation in Londonderry.

In New Hampshire, the SEC added, the project will consist of about 18 miles of a new 345-kV line (3124 Line) – about 8.1 miles will be built, owned and operated by National Grid, and about 9.8 miles will be built, owned and operated by Eversource. The project will traverse the towns of Pelham, Windham, Hudson and Londonderry, and consist of four segments, three of which will be located in New Hampshire.

Segment #1 will be located entirely in Massachusetts, while Segment #2 will be owned by National Grid and will extend from the Massachusetts border to a location in the Town of Hudson, where the project will transition from National Grid to Eversource ownership, the SEC added.

Segment #3 will extend from Mile 14.6 of the project (Hudson, N.H.) to Mile 18.5 of the project to where the new 3124 Line will depart to a north-south corridor running parallel to National Grid’s ROW and turn northerly towards the Scobie Pond 345-kV substation. The SEC also noted that Segment #4 will begin from the point that the PSNH ROW diverges from running parallel with the National Grid ROW and continues east to the Scobie Pond 345-kV substation for about 5.9 miles.

The companies filed with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) a petition for license to construct and maintain electric lines and shield wire over and across state waters and state land in the Town of Windham, as well as a petition for licenses to construct and maintain electric lines and optical ground wires over and across public lands owned by New Hampshire in the Town of Londonderry. The PUC granted those requests for licenses, the SEC added.

Discussing aesthetics, the SEC said that it is undisputed that the project and associated tree clearing will have an adverse effect on the views for some residences. The companies indicated that they have proactively addressed complaints that they received from a number of residents by agreeing to implement mitigation measures. The SEC also said that the companies testified about their willingness and commitment to work with other residents in order to mitigate the project’s effect on views from those residences; the SEC said that it encourages that those efforts continue.

“Considering the foregoing and considering that only a limited number of the residences … will be impacted by the project, we find that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics of the region,” the SEC said.

On air quality, the SEC said that the amount of tree clearing that is required for the project is not so great that it contributes to any material way to a large-scale air quality deforestation. During construction, the companies will use best management practices to minimize fugitive dust emission, the SEC said.

Regarding water quality, the SEC said that taking into account, for instance, the comprehensive process employed by the Department of Environmental Services (DES) in its issuance of a wetlands permit, alteration of terrain permit and shoreland permit, the SEC finds that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on water quality. Each of those permits addresses the impact of the project on wetlands, surface water quality and shoreland, the SEC said, adding that the permits contain conditions and mitigation measures that ensure that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on water resources.

The DES is delegated the authority to monitor construction and operation of the project and its compliance with conditions of the certificate, as well as with all laws and regulations pertaining to the permits that it has issued, the SEC said. In the event that the DES finds that any proposed modification of the project impacts matters that are outside of its jurisdictional authority, it is to immediately notify the administrator for the SEC, the SEC said.

Regarding the natural environment, the SEC said that considering that construction will be conducted within the existing ROW and tree clearing will be conducted only where required, the impact of tree clearing will not be unreasonable. Also, the companies have agreed to monitor areas of identified turtle nesting sites prior to project construction and in spring 2017.

Among other things, the SEC added, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has not expressed concerns regarding the project’s impact on the New England cottontail and the companies have indicated that they will conduct a cottontail survey in winter 2017.

“The Merrimack Valley Reliability Project answers an urgent need to strengthen the area’s electric system and ensure the continued reliable delivery of energy,” Eversource Vice President of Electrical Operations Joe Purington said in Eversource’s statement.

Rudy Wynter, president of National Grid’s FERC Regulated Businesses, said in the statement, “A robust, reliable transmission system is critical to support job growth and enable our 21st century economy.”  

Eversource said that the project team will hold community meetings to inform residents, property and business owners and other interested parties about work activities and schedules. Project representatives from Eversource and National Grid will continue to communicate directly with local officials and project neighbors along the ROW throughout the construction and restoration process and will post regular updates on the project’s website, Eversource said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.