Hearings began Wednesday on Eversource’s proposed transmission line between Madbury to Portsmouth.
The Seacoast Reliability Project would span 13 miles between Madbury and Portsmouth, with a mile buried under Little Bay at Durham and Newington.
It's part of Eversource's response to a call for more stable infrastructure in the region, from the region's grid manager, ISO-New England. The nonprofit said several years ago that the growing area’s power infrastructure would soon be overloaded and needed upgrades.
At the start of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee hearings, lawyers for Durham, Newington and UNH raised concerns that the public didn’t play a large enough role in ISO-New England’s initial planning process.
They also asked Eversource New Hampshire president Bill Quinlan whether the utility has already sufficiently responded to ISO’s mandate with other projects.
Quinlan said the Seacoast Reliability line is the most important solution to reducing risk:
"There's no doubt that those other projects are beneficial and important, and that's why we've constructed them,” he said. “But this project is the linchpin of the total package."
The lawyers also asked Quinlan whether construction would leave as little trace as possible.
“Whenever you’re building infrastructure, you have to balance those legitimate concerns that local residents and others may have with the overall need for the project, and ultimately there’s a cost component to factor into the equation,” Quinlan responded. “Our goal is to strike an appropriate balance, which I believe we have done here.”
Site evaluators will hear from dozens of stakeholders and experts in hearings lasting until late September. Potential impacts to the Piscataqua River Estuary are expected to be a focal point.
The SEC plans to decide whether to certify the project in November. To do so, they have to agree that it’s financially sound and will serve the public good, without outsized impacts to aesthetics, the environment or orderly development in the region.