North Country
5:10 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

AMC Says Northern Pass Would Have "Visual Impact" On 95,000 Acres

A new study by the Appalachian Mountain Club says the towers for the Northern Pass hydro-electric project would “visually impact” about 95,000 acres in the state.

That includes about 3,000 acres in the White Mountain National Forest and 9,000 acres around Concord, the report says.

In all 23 towns from Whitefield south to Deerfield would be affected by the towers, the study said.

Northern Pass issued a statement saying AMC was a foe of the project and its study was “deeply flawed.”

The study did not look at Northern Coos County because Northern Pass – which is backed by Public Service of New Hampshire – has not yet revealed that route.

Northern Pass has said the towers would range in height from about 80 to 135 feet.

But since it isn’t certain how tall the towers would be in each location the AMC based its assessment on 90-foot  towers, says Kenneth Kimball, AMC’s director of research.

Even using 90-footowers the 120-mile route along an existing right-of-way from Whitefield to Franklin would be bad, Kimball says.

“This is more than big towers, it is big towers in some of the most important parts of the state relative to people who come to visit here and recreate,” he says.

Not only would towers be easily seen along Interstate 93 but they would be viewed by many hikers in the White Mountain National Forest, the study says.

That’s a problem, Kimball says, because people don’t come to New Hampshire “to have it look like New Jersey.”

“What we are doing now is trying to rationalize why we should further convert it from a more natural-looking landscape to one that is an industrial landscape.”

Officials at Northern Pass described the report as “a deeply flawed document written by Club staff with no apparent qualifications or experience conducting a professional visual impact assessments.”

Based on its work in other cases of this type Kimball said AMC is very familiar with how visual simulation and such assessments should be done.

The AMC study also criticized the Northern Pass “visual simulations” of how the towers would look.

“A classic example being the photo simulation from Bethlehem, New Hampshire from The Rocks (Estate) area where it is a photo taken in October at 5:30 in the afternoon looking east and the corridor is in the deep shadow of the day. It is almost a night-time look,” Kimball said.

Those visual simulations were done by LandWorks of Middlebury, Vermont.

David Raphael, a landscape architect, planner and principal at LandWorks, said the late-afternoon timing was not inappropriate because people might go there at the end of the day. There was no effort to conceal anything, he said in an interview.

The AMC study also complained that the visual simulations did not include key, scenic areas.

But Raphael said that criticism was premature and unfair because the project is still underway.

“We are only showing a few simulations. We are developing simulations from all the sensitive vantage points in the White Mountains and along the corridor route,” he said.

Raphael said assertions that the work was unprofessional were blatantly untrue.

“I take direct offense at that. We have been doing visual simulations and visual-impact assessments for 25 years,” he said.

He said he would be happy to meet with AMC officials to discuss the simulations.

The study also says important areas that AMC says would be affected include:

* The Appalachian Trail (Kinsman Ridge Trail) at the crossing of the NP corridor in Lincoln NH.

* South Kinsman Mtn, viewpoints at (a) 0.1 miles and (b) 0.25 miles south of the summit in Lincoln NH.

* Turtletown Pond in Concord.

* Interstate 93 crossing at milepost 98.8 in Woodstock.

* The Appalachian Trail (Kinsman Ridge Trail) at a viewpoint below the summit of Mt Wolf.

* The Appalachian Trail (Benton Trail) 0.15 mile north of the summit of Mt Moosilauke.

* Pawtuckaway firetower in Pawtuckaway State Park.

* U.S. Route 302 in Bethlehem at NP crossing (near Brook Road).

* Interstate 93 northbound at milepost 95.2 in Woodstock.

* Interstate 93 at milepost (a) 76.8 northbound and (b) 75.8 southbound in Ashland.

* Interstate 93 crossing south of exit 39 Bethlehem.

* Mt Pemigewasset on the border of Franconia Notch State Park and the White Mountain National Forest.

Here are the towns along the route that AMC says would be affected:

* Whitefield

* Dalton

* Bethlehem

* Sugar Hill

* Easton

* Lincoln

* Woodstock

* Thornton

* Campton

* Holderness

* Ashland

* Bridgewater

* New Hampton

* Bristol

* Hill

* Franklin

* Northfield

* Canterbury

* Concord

* Pembroke

* Chichester

* Allenstown

* Deerfield