Forest Society Says It Has Deal To Block Northern Pass - But Wants To Raise $2.5 Million

Aug 20, 2012

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests says it has reached deals with several land owners in Coos it believes will block the Northern Pass hydro-electric project.

But Northern Pass says it plans to keep working on the $1.1 billion dollar project.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

The Forest Society says it has tentative conservation easements with land owners in Coos that would keep the controversial hydro-electric project from finding a crucial route south from Canada.

Under such easements the landowners retain title to the property but the land cannot be developed

At a news conference Monday Will Abbott, an official with the Forest Society, insisted those agreements mean trouble for Northern Pass.

“It is pretty clear that the combination of the five parcels will create a very significant block to their intended route.”

However, there’s a catch.

The Society says it needs to raise $2.5 million by October 31stto fund the deal.

Forest Society spokesman Jack Savage says some of that money will go for legal fees, surveying and related expenses.

“The vast majority of that money is payment to landowners for the value represented by those easements.”

Savage said “vast majority” means at least $2 million.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray was dismissive and says the announcement changes little.

“We are going to keep at it. We are very optimistic. We have made good progress and, no, today’s announcement will not stop that.”

 “Well, we are viewing today’s announcement really as a pretty convenient fund-raising tool for the Forest Society.”

Forest Society Jack Savage says the Society needs to raise money to make this happen, plain and simple.

“I think it is a misunderstanding to think that we necessarily have some large pile of money available for projects like this. In every case we go out and raise money in order to do land protection.”

The Society took the same tack to raise about $850,000 for a conservation easement at the Balsams Grand Resort. It was also designed to block Northern Pass. The Forest Society said it raised the money with a record 1,500 contributions.

Northern Pass – which is backed by Public Service New Hampshire and Northeast Utilities – has been looking for a route from Canada through Northern Coos.

While many landowners have sold property there has also been some strong opposition.

The largest parcel in the new Forest Society deal is 967 acres owned by the McAllaster family.

A second parcel is 500 acres owned by Green Acre Woodlands.

A third is 300 acres owned by the Lewis family.

Last month during a conference call with analysts Northeast Utilities officials said they hoped to have a new route finished this fall and filed with the Department of Energy by the end of the year.

But they admitted they still had some parcels to buy.

The filing with the Department of Energy will trigger a new set of public hearings. The DOE has to approve the project. If that happens it will be considered by state officials.

For NHPR News this is Chris Jensen

NHPR's Ryan Lessard contributed to this report.