The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, in a June 16 order, granted the licenses to cross public waters and public lands requested by Northern Pass Transmission, LLC, and Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (NYSE:ES), in relation to the Northern Pass Project.
The various requests for licenses were submitted as part of the filing before the state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) for approval of a certificate of site and facility for the 192-mile transmission line that is designed to extend from New Hampshire’s Canadian border to Deerfield, N.H., the commission added in its order.
“In granting the licenses, the commission finds that the crossings do not interfere with the public’s use of the land and waters affected by the crossings,” the commission said.
Eversource in October 2015 filed petitions for licenses to cross public waters (DE 15-460 and DE 15-462), as well as to cross public lands and state-owned railroads (DE 15-461 and DE 15-463), the commission said.
The petition in DE 15-460 requested 25 licenses to cross public water at 25 locations along the line, while the petition in DE 15-461 requested 14 licenses to cross public lands in 14 locations along the line, the commission said. The petition in DE 15-462 requested licenses to relocate lines crossing public waters in 15 locations, while the petition in DE 15-463 requested licenses to relocate lines crossing public lands in 13 locations, the commission said.
Eversource’s petitions requested licenses to relocate existing lines for purposes of allowing Northern Pass Transmission to build transmission facilities in the same rights of way (ROWs), the commission said.
About 158 miles of Northern Pass would be operated as direct current (DC) at 320 kV, and the remaining approximately 34 miles would be operated as alternating current (AC) at 345 kV, the commission noted.
The commission said that staff filed its recommendation concerning the filing in late February, and that the commission held a hearing in early April to hear from intervenors and members of the public on the issue of whether the proposed crossings interfered with the public use of the land or waters – no member of the public attended the hearing.
Staff said that it typically reviews and considers certain elements in a petition for a license to cross public waters or public lands, including applicable state statutes. The commission added that in this matter, in addition to the standard review, staff employed other measures to examine each of the public waters and state-owned public lands crossings along the full length of the project. For instance, the commission said, staff used a comprehensive verification scheme applying Geographic Information Systems to review the locations of the crossings in context with surrounding residential and commercial buildings, existing utilities, and other energy infrastructure.
In arriving at its conclusion that the crossings under review would not interfere with use of the public lands, staff identified the functional uses of various parcels, including state rail corridors and Department of Transportation land, the commission said.
Among other things, the commission noted that staff found all of the overhead water crossings to be appropriately designed, and staff pointed out that the proposed Connecticut River crossing in Pittsburg may require review by the Army Corps of Engineers. Staff recommended that if it has not already done so, Northern Pass Transmission should notify the Army Corps about that crossing, the commission said.
Discussing overhead land crossings, the commission said that staff noted five discrepancies in state land parcels between those described in the filings and the maps produced by staff. According to staff, the commission said, the discrepancies resulted in differences in the total length of a given crossing and, as a result, could impact the amount of state land that is being granted for a license. For the Nash Stream Forest, for instance, staff’s use of certain data resulted in the actual license requiring 238 feet more than requested, but it did not affect the number of poles in the Nash Stream Forest, or staff’s determination that the crossing was appropriately designed, the commission said.
In addition, the commission noted that staff identified seven existing water crossings where the commission had not previously granted Eversource a license to build the crossings that are in existence. According to staff, the absence of a license was confirmed by Eversource, and staff recommended that the company apply for licenses for the crossings, regardless of whether the SEC approves a certificate of construction for the Northern Pass Project.
The commission added that staff recommended that the commission grant licenses for crossings located as described in staff’s filings, and designed and built consistent with the plans reviewed by staff.
The commission said: “We find that the requested licenses may be exercised without substantially affecting the public rights in the affected public waters and lands, as required for approval under RSA 371:20. We, therefore, approve the licenses for 57 overhead crossings and 4 underground water crossings, subject to the conditions contained in the ordering clauses set forth below to ensure safe construction, operation, and maintenance of the crossings.”
For instance, the grant of licenses is conditioned upon the issuance of a certificate of site and facility by the SEC and the commission’s approval of the lease of transmission ROWs to Northern Pass Transmission as requested by Eversource, the commission said.