Neighbors expressed concerns about environmental, visual and residential impacts of the proposed Merrimack Valley Reliability Project at a forum hosted by Eversource Energy and National Grid at Matthew Thornton Elementary School on Wednesday night.

Eagle-Tribune

Merrimack Valley Reliability Project addresses neighbors' concerns

By Breanna Edelstein bedelstein@eagletribune.com | Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015 12:15 am

About 35 residents attended.

If passed, the $132 million project would hang 24.5 miles of overhead power lines from Londonderry's Scobie Pond substation to Tewksbury, Mass.

The MVRP would run along existing utility rights of way, including 18 miles through Londonderry, Hudson, Windham and Pelham.

The project is still in its early stages, and before moving forward, it has to be approved by both the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

If approved, construction would begin in 2016 with an estimated in-service date in 2017.

At a Planning Board meeting on April 1, project manager Suzanne Findlen said the project is a response to a 2008 study by ISO New England, a nonprofit regional transmission organization, that showed the increasing power needs for the region could result in overloads on the system.

“Something needed to be done to meet that demand and avoid any potential overloads that could occur,” Findlen said.

Southern New Hampshire and Greater Boston have the most concentrated and fastest growing electricity demands in New England.

In February 2015, ISO New England selected the MVRP as the preferred solution to address the area's reliability needs.

At Wednesday's forum, Lynwood Gilcreast, a Hudson resident, expressed initial concern about the project's effects on the environment.

Jim Jiotti, manager of transmission engineering for Eversource, said the companies are working with state and federal environmental agencies to minimize any negative impact to plant and animal life.

They also want to work with neighbors.

"We don't want to slip in and out during any construction that would happen," Jiottis said. "We want to work individually with people to ease their concerns."

From Gilcreast's home, he already sees a lot of power lines, he added. And he's skeptical about the MVRP adding even more.

"If the project is approved, I think it would be better if they use single-

pole towers," he said.

Barbara Barthelmes' Londonderry home would also have a direct view of the project's power lines.

"My house would be 50 feet away," she said.

Her major concerns include the effects of blasting while land is being cleared to build on. She asked Jiottis what construction would mean for the foundation of her home, her well and her septic system.

Jiottis said the company would cover "reasonable costs" for damages acquired during construction.

"We got some good food for thought tonight," Barthelmes said. "My neighbors and I are all going to meet and we'll definitely reach out to Eversource again."

If approved, there would be another public hearing within 45 days to discuss communities' concerns.

Jiottis emphasized the project would create local jobs and provide both New Hampshire and Massachusetts with more electricity.

He compared the project to a storage bank. The new power lines would store electricity to be used when either state required it, Jiottis said.

"If there's a big outage in New Hampshire, then that region would be getting more power," he said. "And the same for if something major happens in Massachusetts."

Because the New Hampshire portion of power lines runs through both Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, another information session was scheduled for Thursday in Hudson.

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