New Granite State Power Link project rich in rights- of-wayBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
April 11. 2017 12:04AM
MONROE — National Grid officials say the company’s proposed Granite State Power Link, which would bring hydroelectricity from Canada into New England, would also bring economic benefits to the 24 New Hampshire communities it crosses, including this town along the Connecticut River.
With a population of 788 in the 2010 Census, Monroe is best-known as the home of Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs. It has two churches, but no stores. What Monroe has in abundance, thanks to its location on the Vermont-New Hampshire border, are electrical generation and transmission facilities, overhead power lines and energy rights-of-way.
Joe Rossignoli, project leader for Granite State Power Link, said the project would entail the construction in Monroe of a direct-current converter station. He estimated the cost “will be in the low nine-figure range.”
Some 110 miles south of Monroe, in Londonderry, Rossignoli said National Grid proposes to build a switching station whose cost “would probably be an eight-figure number.”
Construction of the facilities would increase the total assessed valuation in both communities, meaning increased property taxes, he said.
Utility companies are typically among the largest property owners and taxpayers in many New Hampshire cities and towns.
Keith Merchand, who has been Monroe’s tax collector for 21 years, said utilities currently pay about 62 percent of all property taxes in town.
Monroe in 2016 had a tax rate of $11.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
In Monroe, according to town records, seven electric companies pay taxes on property with a total assessed value of $338,324,800.
At almost $200,000,000, TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc. is the utility with the largest assessment in Monroe.
Rossignoli said the proposed Monroe converter station will interconnect with TransCanada’s transmission facilities at Comerford Dam off Route 135. He said he would not pinpoint the location until he and others from National Grid meet with the Monroe Board of Selectmen on April 18 at 7 p.m.
With three exceptions — in Litchfield and Londonderry, as well as a four-mile stretch between Littleton and Monroe in which National Grid will have to purchase land to widen the rights-of-way — nearly all of the Granite State Power Link transmission line will be within existing rights-of-way.
South of Monroe, only 20 percent of the existing transmission towers will be replaced, said Rossignoli.
Rossignoli declined to make comparisons between Granite State Power Link and the Northern Pass transmission project proposed by Eversource.
Northern Pass would also bring Canadian hydropower into the New England market via New Hampshire. It would do so along a 192-mile route from Pittsburg to Deerfield, with all but 60 miles above ground.
Eversource says more than 80 percent of the line “will be located beneath public roadways or within existing transmission corridors,” but critics have demanded that the entire length be buried.
Northern Pass created a $200 million economic-development initiative known as the Forward NH Fund. National Grid plans to announce its own initiative which, “at the very least,” said Rossignoli, will match the Forward NH Fund.
Eversource has said Granite State Power Link is well behind Northern Pass in applying for permits and going through the regulatory process.
Rossignoli disagreed: “We feel that the benefits of this project, and the way of using the existing rights-of-way and existing infrastructure and the minimal environmental impact and cost-effectiveness that results from that, are so compelling that we can permit and commercialize this project in a very timely manner.”
Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests does not have an official position on Granite State Power Link.
But spokesman Jack Savage said the society has long wondered why proposed transmission projects can’t use “the lines already running in northern New Hampshire.”
He said Granite State Power Link represents “a clear alternative to Northern Pass” and because it will cost less to build, “has the potential to blow Northern Pass right out of the water.”
District 1 State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, who represents all of Coos County as well as many communities in Grafton County, including Littleton and Monroe, said it appears that National Grid and Northern Pass are courting the same energy provider — Hydro-Quebec.
“Quite frankly, these projects need to live and die on their own,” said Woodburn, who for now is happy to “let the process play itself out.”