The developers of a controversial proposed 180-mile long transmission project through New Hampshire are delaying the announcement of a new route until they do more outreach with the public and local officials.
The Northern Pass project, which would bring hydroelectric power from Quebec to Southern New England, has sparked wide outcry from residents and environmentalists, many of whom say its transmission towers will destroy an unbroken landscape of rolling hills, forest, and farms in northern New Hampshire.
Northern Pass had promised to announce a new route by the end of 2012 after an earlier proposal was met with widespread opposition. But in a statement posted on its website Tuesday, the group said that while it had identified a new route, it was waiting to file detailed plans with the state.
We “recognize that while we are communicating with local citizens, stakeholders and public officials across New Hampshire, there is still much that can be done,’’ the statement read. “We believe this communication and dialogue is critical to the ultimate success of the new route and the project overall and felt it was necessary to take some additional time to continue these efforts before we publicly announce the new routing proposal.”
Environmentalists, however, saw the announcement as proof that an unusual attempt to stop the project by buying land Northern Pass may want was working. While 140 miles of the transmission project would be built along an already existing right of way, there is no right of way for the northernmost 40 miles that Northern Pass needs. It is there that opposition to the project is the fiercest.
“The lack of specificity speaks for itself: There is no route,’’ said Jack Savage of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
His group has identified key parcels in recent years it thinks Northern Pass needs to link the proposed corridor together, and it is trying to acquire conservation easements on those properties.
While the nonprofit cannot compete financially against Northern Pass, Savage and other environmentalists are hoping to force developers to take many detours and, more importantly, to force them to negotiate with dozens more property owners. Some environmentalists are hoping such headaches will result in Northern Pass burying the transmission lines, running them along highways, or abandoning the project.