CONCORD — Northern Pass partners have yet to submit their official response to a lawsuit filed by a North Country resort area that claims plans for the hydroelectric project could run them into bankruptcy.
But in a statement released late last week, spokesmen for Public Service of New Hampshire and its parent, Northeast Utilities, claim that any allegation that the project triggered a decline in the resort's real estate sales is "simply wrong and has no basis in fact."
Owners of the Owl's Nest Resort and Golf Club, located near the White Mountain National Forest, filed suit in early October, claiming that the resort and 18-hole golf course are threatened with extinction by the prospect of the power lines for the Northern Pass cutting through the property.
Owl's Nest partners Tom Mullen and Walter Lankau told the New Hampshire Union Leader that, when they filed their lawsuit, sales of land and residential units on the property had been drying up since the project was announced in late 2010.
The suit challenges the legitimacy of a 2007 easement granted PSNH on the property by the owners, who said they were led to believe that any new development in the renegotiated easement would be of the same scale as existing poles. In fact, the easement allows for much larger transmission towers and expanded construction rights.
In their unofficial response to the lawsuit, the Northern Pass partners claim that the terms of the easement were clear, and that the economy, not Northern Pass, triggered the drop in sales.
"Publicly available data clearly shows that the resort has suffered the effects of a deep recession that began well before the Northern Pass project, significantly impacting the New Hampshire real estate market," they wrote. "It is unfortunate that Owl's Nest, like many others across our state and the rest of the country, has been impacted by this economic downturn."
The lawsuit seeks to restore the rights that existed prior to the new easement. Northern Pass partners maintain that the golf course was prosperous, despite the presence of existing power lines, through easements that existed for decades, and that both parties agreed to the revised terms in 2007.
They point out that the resort has been voted the best golf course in New Hampshire, notwithstanding the existing transmission lines and right-of-way over the property.
"This 2007 agreement expressly recognized PSNH's right to construct and install additional transmission lines, poles, towers, and related electric transmission equipment and facilities within the power line right-of-way; a provision that Owl's Nest was fully aware of," according to Northern Pass. "In this lawsuit, the owners of Owl's Nest claim that they were misled by PSNH about the terms of the 2007 agreement and its intended use. This claim is not only untrue, but is incredible in light of the clear language of the 2007 agreement."
Nonetheless, PSNH has attempted to negotiate a settlement with Owl's Nest, and will continue to do so, according to company officials, who stated, "We remain open to continuing our cooperative dialogue with Owl's Nest to address any legitimate concerns they may have with our proposal."firstname.lastname@example.org