Visual Impacts: AMC Videos Trace Northern Pass Route

December 9, 2013
Visual-Impacts
Google EarthA screenshot from AMC’s Northern Pass fly-over videos

A series of bird’s-eye-view videos revealing the visual impact of the proposed Northern Pass electric transmission line on New Hampshire’s iconic scenery, rural neighborhoods, and public lands was posted online by AMC in late fall, and traffic to the site has been brisk.

The animated videos, developed by AMC’s Research Department, show the locations and heights of more than 1,500 new steel transmission towers and 700 relocated towers. Viewers can “fly over” the entire 186-mile route, from Deerfield, N.H., north to the Canadian border. Colored shading on the landscape indicates areas from which transmission lines could be seen. Colors on the maps indicate the relative density of visual impacts, with yellow denoting areas from which up to 20 towers could be seen and red indicating more than 20 towers could be visible from those locations.

Visual impacts of Northern Pass could affect more than 95,000 acres, according to AMC’s research.

Except for a new, 32-mile swath proposed to be cut in the northern reaches of the route, much of the corridor exists and carries electricity. Under the new proposal, however, sections of the existing right-of-way would be significantly widened, and wooden or steel towers that currently average 52 feet tall would be replaced by steel towers from 80 to 155 feet tall, greatly exceeding the height of the tree canopy along much of the route.

“As proposed, this private, for-profit energy project would cause enormous damage to New Hampshire’s public resources, communities, and second-largest industry, the tourism economy,” said AMC Vice President for Conservation Susan Arnold.

AMC is opposed to the project as proposed and has filed comments on the Northern Pass Environmental Impact Statement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The organization is not alone in its opposition: Of the 31 communities through which the transmission line would pass, 30 have voted to oppose the project, and 33 New Hampshire communities in total have registered their opposition.

AMC is particularly concerned about the impact on resources of regional and national significance. Newly configured towers and lines would run through 10 miles of the White Mountain National Forest, and towers could likely be seen from nearly 2,000 acres within the forest. The project would also impact six scenic outlooks and a trail crossing along the Appalachian Trail.

Researchers used data in Northern Pass’s July 2013 amended application to DOE to create the videos. Northern Pass representatives have criticized the videos, asserting they didn’t account for tree height or topography and claiming they “do not conform to any widely accepted visual assessment methodologies.”

AMC Director of Research Kenneth D. Kimball, Ph.D., refutes those claims. “Contrary to Northern Pass’s assertions, we accounted for the visual effects of trees and topography. Moreover, we did, indeed, use widely accepted methodologies. For instance, the technique AMC used to derive its results is what Northern Pass’s visual expert uses for wind farm applications,” he said.

While they have proposed burying 8 miles of the line, Northern Pass officials have consistently said burial along the entire route is not economically viable.

Northern Pass is seeking approval to transmit 1,200 KW of electricity generated in Canada by Hydro-Quebec through New Hampshire to the southern New England market. Kimball said that power generation would have severe environmental impacts, as it would require the rerouting of major rivers and flooding of Canadian forests to create huge reservoirs.

LEARN MORE

View the Northern Pass fly-over videos and learn more about the Northern Pass proposal.

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Rob Burbank

Director of Media and Public Affairs
rburbank@outdoors.org
(603) 466-8155