The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) on April 3 told the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) that it will issue a permit for Eversource Energy’s (NYSE:ES) application involving the proposed Northern Pass transmission project, subject to conditions.
“The NHDOT is confident we will execute the necessary agreements, licenses and permits for this project with the assumption that the [company] will conform to the draft conditions presented herein,” the NHDOT said.
As noted in the NHDOT’s filing, the 192-mile high voltage electrical transmission line project includes the construction of aerial and underground electric transmission lines, including related conduit, cable, wires, poles, structures, and devices across, over, under, and along certain state highways and railroads.
The NHDOT noted that the proposal includes 66 aerial crossings over state-maintained highways, including 29 existing crossings owned by Public Service of New Hampshire; 37 are new proposed crossings owned by Northern Pass Transmission. The NHDOT also said that the proposal includes six aerial crossings of state-owned railroad corridors.
The proposal includes about 56 miles of underground conduit construction impacting several segments of roadway within state-maintained highways. The NHDOT added that those locations include:
- Highway Maintenance District 1 – Beecher Falls Rd in Pittsburg from the proposed transition station access road to the intersection of US Route 3; US Route 3 in Pittsburg from the intersection of Beecher Falls Road to the Clarksville/Pittsburg town line; and, among others, NH Route 145 in Clarksville from a point about 1,200 feet north of the intersection with Old County Road to the intersection of Old County Road
- Highway Maintenance District 3 – US Route 3 in Woodstock from the intersection of NH Route 175 to the Woodstock/Thornton town line; US Route 3 in Thornton from the Woodstock/Thornton town line to the Thornton/Campton town line; and, among others, US Route 3 in Campton from the Thornton/Campton town line to the Campton/Plymouth town line
The NHDOT noted that due to the scope and size of the proposed project, the construction plans are still in development and will continue to be reviewed, as well as revised, as the project proceeds through the design process. Based on the initial design reviews, the location of the transmission corridor within the department’s right of way (ROW) will require some fine tuning to better conform to the Utility Accommodation Manual (UAM), which provides guidance for the placement and construction of public utilities within NHDOT ROW.
However, the NHDOT added, assuming the final construction plans and specifications address the department’s concerns, meet the design guidelines, or documentation is provided and approved by the department to justify specific exceptions to the guidelines, the department would issue permit approval for the project construction within the department’s ROW.
Noting that the project construction plans and specifications are still in development, the NHDOT said that the conditions of approval are intended to provide additional clarification and further guidance for the project design in order to obtain department construction permit approvals.
The NHDOT said that those conditions include that:
- The company is to execute a Use and Occupancy Agreement (U&O) with the NHDOT before final issuance of other department permits and licenses
- Final construction plans are to be submitted to, and approved by, the NHDOT before final issuance of other department permits and licenses
- In accordance with the UAM, underground facilities are to be located outside of pavement areas and as close to the ROW line as practicable
- Aerial crossings near bridge structures are to be located as far away as feasible to eliminate the need for adjustments to the proposed facility for bridge maintenance or replacement
Under “construction requirements,” the NHDOT said, for instance, that no work in the highway ROW is to be permitted during these conditions unless prior approval is obtained from the NHDOT: inclement weather; the hours of darkness; Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or peak traffic times before and after holidays as determined by the department; as well as during the period from Nov. 15 to April 15.
Among other things, the NHDOT listed “exceptions to NHDOT standards and guidelines requested.”
For instance, the NHDOT said that Eversource requested an exception to standards that require that longitudinal installations are to be located on a uniform alignment as near as practicable to the ROW line, so as to provide a safe environment for traffic operation and to preserve space for future highway improvements or other utility installations.
The NHDOT said that there may be some discrete locations within the proposal where an exception to that provision may be permitted, adding that those locations will be determined as part of the final construction plans submitted to, and approved by, the NHDOT.
The company on April 4 said on the project’s website that the NHDOT’s report recommending approval of the project follows the March 1 announcement by the state Department of Environmental Services (DES), which also recommended approval of the project.
In a March 1 filing to the SEC, the DES said that its Water Division staff has completed its technical review of Eversource’s application and has made a final decision on the parts of the application that relate to DES permitting or regulatory authority relative to a Wetland permit, Alteration of Terrain permit, 401 Water Quality Certificate, and Shoreland permits.
DES said that it recommends approval of the application, with certain conditions, including that prior to tree clearing, site preparation or project construction, the company is to coordinate with the state Fish and Game Department to finalize the Wildlife Avoidance and Minimization Measures and Time of Year Restrictions for protected wildlife and all rare, threatened, endangered species found to be associated with the project, which provide the best resource protection timing requirements practicable as agreed to by the agency and in consideration of the seasonal temperature variations, logistics, and project schedule.
Of the NHDOT and state DES recommendations, the company said, “Both are essential components of the state siting process being conducted by the NH SEC, which is scheduled to render a final decision on the Northern Pass application later this year.”
The final phase of the state permitting process begins with the start of final adjudicative hearings on April 13, the company said, noting that the hearings are the last step in the state siting process before the SEC makes its decision on the project.