Chris Jensen

North Country Reporter

Christopher Jensen worked as a reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for 25 years, covering topics including desegregation, the 1st Gulf War, international charities’ fraud and the auto industry. He also wrote stories about competing in off-road races including the 1988 TransAmazon, the Baja 1000, the Paris-Moscow-Beijing Raid and Paris-Dakar.

Since 2007 he has lived in Bethlehem, covering the North Country for NHPR in addition to freelancing on automotive topics for The New York Times. He enlisted in the Army in 1968 and spent 15 months as a combat photographer in Vietnam. He graduated from George Washington University with a degree in journalism.

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 Under pressure from New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Department of Energy says it will disclose which alternatives to the route favored by Northern Pass it plans to study. That is something opponents of the controversial project have been seeking.

Before the Northern Pass project can go forward it must be approved by the DOE. And, the core of that approval is an environmental impact statement. It will focus on the 187-mile route Northern Pass wants to use.

In the vote on whether to allow electronic Keno games to be played in the state sixteen North Country representatives were evenly split for and against, without any clear divide along party lines.

As NHPR’s Josh Rogers reported the Keno bill cleared the house by a 202-141 margin.

Under the bill, 92 percent of the proceeds would go to the state for education, with one percent of that earmarked for problem gambling programs.

A Berlin woman was killed Saturday night in a snowmobile accident, the second time in a week that there’s been a fatal snowmobile accident in the North Country.

Lucie Gagnon, 58, was killed just before 10 p.m. at Success Pond when she hit an embankment and large tree, Fish and Game Conservation Officer Mark Ober reported in a news release.

“Mrs. Gagnon suffered severe trauma as a result of the crash and died at the scene,” Ober said.

dearbarbie via Flickr CC

Berlin is on the way to becoming the first jurisdiction in the state to allow bars to take advantage of a new law and serve liquor until 2 a.m.

But Mayor Paul Grenier says the city council's decision has a downside.

“It is actually going to increase law-enforcement activity.”

And, an upside.

“We want to try to encourage and do everything we can to help our businesses in Berlin succeed.”

A 47-year-old Hudson woman died from injuries she sustained in a snowmobile accident near Pittsburg, according to a news release from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Pauline Robinson was injured Tuesday when her snowmobile struck a tree on an icy section of trail, said Conservation Office Matthew Holmes.

A helicopter flew her to the Central Maine Medical Center where she died about 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

“Although this crash is still under investigation, authorities believe that an unintentional hit of the throttle was the primary cause of this crash,” Holmes said.

While the legislature considers whether to allow a $25 hiker’s card that would eliminate any chance of being charged for a rescue, a Michigan man is fighting a $9,300 bill for the help he got in 2012.

Earlier this month a judge in District Court in Concord decided Edward Bacon of Northville, Michigan was negligent. That meant he should reimburse New Hampshire Fish and Game for the cost of his rescue from the Franconia Ridge.

Only one representative from the North Country voted Wednesday against a bill that would encourage state regulators to give preference to electric transmission lines that are buried or located along public highways.

As NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reported the House voted 171 – 139 for HB 569.

Chris Jensen

Voters in Executive Council District 1 went to the polls Tuesday in a primary over the seat held by Ray Burton, who died in November.

Three Republicans Mark Aldrich of Lebanon, Christopher Boothby of Meredith and, Joseph Kenney of Wakefield are vying to see who will face Hanover Democrat Michael Cryans in March.

In Littleton the turnout was extremely light, says Gerald Winn, the town moderator.

“We opened at eight this morning and we’re four and a half hours in and there are fifty people who voted.”

A Vermont man was killed in Errol Monday evening when a colleague drove into him with a logging truck, according to a news release from Troop F.

The accident occurred on Millsfield Pond Road, where the men were putting on tire chains.

The driver, Mike Doucette, 24, of Milan, thought 42-year-old Brian Young was clear of the truck and drove forward, hitting Young, according to state police. Young died at the scene.

The investigation is continuing and no charges have been filed.

Amid high winds and blowing snow, four people were rescued from above the treeline on Mount Washington before dawn Monday. But one rescuer said the group was lucky to get out a call for help.

"I think it would have been a bad outcome if they weren’t able to get the rescue call out,” Craig Taylor, a volunteer with the Mountain Rescue Service, told NHPR.

“Temperatures were expected to go below zero, winds were expected to ramp up to the triple digits that night. So, the forecast was really grim.”

Mt. Washington Auto Road / Flickr CC

  Searchers spent hours on Mount Washington Saturday night looking for - and locating - a lost ice climber, according to a news release from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

The call for help came about 5:30 pm from Ms. Dale Edwards, 32, of the Bronx in New York, who was climbing with two companions in the back country of the Ammonoosuc Ravine, according to Conservation Officer Matthew Holmes.

By roughly a three-to-one margin North Country representatives voted against legalizing marijuana.

As NHPR’s Ryan Lessard reported the debate over HB 492 had those in favor of legalizing the use of small amounts of marijuana saying marijuana was no different than drinking alcohol.

And, those opposed said there were “negative health impacts.”

COBAN Technologies

Nine of the 14 North Country representatives voting opposed allowing police to use license plate scanners, while five were in favor of the technology.

As NHPR’s Josh Rogers reported supporters – including the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police – argued scanners might help solve crimes, while opponents worried about privacy issues.

The bill authorizing scanners, House Bill 675, was defeated 250 – 97.

Winter has indisputably arrived and most of the state’s drivers figure they know what to do when the roads get slick. But a company in the North Country is helping drivers polish those skills and learn a few things even veterans of the ice capades may not know.

One of those drivers is Judy Gessner, of Whitefield, who is behind the wheel of a Honda Odyssey minivan, and, with increasing confidence she is slaloming between big, orange cones despite a slick, snowy surface.

The first major storm of the season and road crews have both been going all night.

“We’re in hour twenty-nine at this point of a very long storm and it is turning into a stamina test and our crews are pretty much having to deal with a lot of blowing snow across the roads, which requires repeated runs," said  highway department spokesman Bill Boynton.

He says speeds on the turnpike interstates have been lowered to 45 miles per hour.

“And we’re  hearing motorists are really having trouble keeping up those speeds," he said.

A 24-year-old Massachusetts man who survived an avalanche on Mount Washington Saturday afternoon says it was a bewildering and terrifying trip down the Tuckerman Ravine.

Adam Herman of Oak Bluffs, was walking ahead of his partner, Conor Lodge, when he felt the snow begin to give way.

He turned and desperately tried to sink his ice ax into the snow.

“It didn’t take, so I just fell,” he said.

For 100 years the library in Bethlehem occupied three small rooms in Town Hall. But over the weekend that changed with opening of a new library on Main Street. It was the conclusion of a tale involving a mystery donor, a brother who moved far away and a sister who stayed in the North Country.

At the tale’s center were two people.

One was Muriel Brown, who for more than three decades was the town’s beloved librarian.

The other was her brother, Arthur Jobin, known to the family as “Bud.”

Both grew up in Bethlehem.

Rescuers say it is amazing that two men caught in an avalanche on Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine weren’t seriously injured, but they had a brutal ride.

The two men were on their way down Mount Washington Saturday afternoon when they missed the turn onto the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, says Jeff Lane, a snow ranger with the U.S. Forest Service.

Then, they walked into an area known as The Lip, triggering an avalanche that carried them through a perilous area.

A horse-drawn sleigh carrying tourists in the North Country flipped over Saturday afternoon, sending four people to the hospital with minor injuries.

The accident happened on a trail near the Omni Mount Washington Hotel says, Todd Bailey, a captain with the Twin Mountain Fire Department.

“The horse was spooked, apparently, and the carriage flipped over, ejecting several passengers,” he said.

Five passengers were thrown from the sleigh and four were taken to Littleton Regional Healthcare with what Bailey described as injuries that were not life threatening.

Rescuers were in The White Mountains Saturday night after being alerted that somebody needed help. They just didn’t know who or why.

The alert came about  6:45 Saturday when New Hampshire Fish and Game got a call from the International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Texas.

It had received a signal from a SPOTS emergency beacon that had been activated in King Ravine in Burbank’s Grant.

The signal indicated where help was needed but nothing else.

At just after 8 am the National Weather Service was reporting freezing rain is finally starting to fall in some parts of the state.

While most of the state has been relatively warm temperatures are now beginning to drop says John Cannon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

“Well, right now we have cold air funneling into eastern NH and that is causing temperatures to fall to at or below freezing and we are beginning to pick up some accumulating icing conditions over eastern New Hampshire," says Cannon.

A new state program is offering financial help to businesses that would like to start using wood pellets rather than heating oil.

The grants are designed to help businesses buy new heating systems that use a homegrown, renewable resource: wood.

The money is available through the Public Utilities Commission’s  Sustainable Energy Division.

Jack Ruderman is its head.

“We’re offering a rebate of up to 30 percent of the cost of the heating system and installation with a cap of $50,000 per system," says Jack Ruderman, the head of the division.

Tuesday night in Plymouth the state’s Office of Energy and Planning held its last public hearing on possible changes to the state’s Site Evaluation Committee - which is responsible for approving utility projects ranging from wind farms to Northern Pass - and the theme was that the SEC needs a significant and wide-ranging overhaul before it can be trusted.

About three dozen people attended and their concerns echoed those voiced at previous meetings around the state.

A central issue was that all fifteen members of the SEC are officials from state agencies.

The season’s first serious snowstorm is almost over, says says Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

“By around 10 am to noon depending on your location you should see significant improvements,” she said.

First reports indicate the worst snow was south of the notches.

“So far we’ve seen some reports of up to ten inches in the Lakes Region and as much as nine to ten inches in southwest New Hampshire,” Curtis said.

New Hampshire State Police

There was a fatal collision Tuesday morning on Route 3 in Columbia, according to a news release from the state police.

The accident was reported about 8:40 and involved a Buick LeSabre going northbound and a Toyota Tundra pickup headed southbound, reported Lt. Todd Landry, the commander of Troop F, which covers the North Country.

Saturday night it was the third annual Christmas in Bethlehem celebration in the North Country.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen sent this postcard:

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley: This week the public has a chance to weigh in on the future of the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.  The SEC reviews major utility projects, including proposed wind farms and the Northern Pass project. 

The concerns of opponents of those projects prompted Governor Hassan to sign Senate Bill 99.  It calls for a review of how the SEC works with a report due at the end of December. 

This week’s listening sessions and workshops include one tonight in Manchester.

UPDATE: By early Sunday afternoon two members of the Fish and Game rescue party were still working their way through the tangled and challenging, Dry River drainage, trying to reach a road, said Lt. Wayne Saunders.

A solo hiker missing in The Presidentials walked out on his own late Saturday afternoon after teams of rescuers and a helicopter spent a rugged day searching for him.

The search began on Saturday morning for Michael Niles 31 of Bradford Massachusetts.

A Vermont man found responsible for the 2010 explosion in Colebrook that killed two men and injured a third is going to prison for at least ten years.

Late in October a jury found Craig Sanborn guilty of two counts of manslaughter and Wednesday in Coos Superior Court he was sentenced.

“The court sentenced Mr. Sanborn to five to ten years incarceration on each manslaughter charge to be served consecutively for a total of 10 to 20 years,” said Stephen Murray, the assistant Coos County attorney.

A series of public meetings begin the first week in December to determine what changes, if any, should be made to how the state’s Site Evaluation Committee works, including whether the public should have a decision-making role in approving new utility projects.

The SEC reviews major utility projects, which will include Northern Pass.

Currently the SEC has fifteen members, all from state agencies.

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