With Construction Underway, Opponents Appeal Seacoast Power Line To N.H. Supreme Court

May 14, 2019

A map shows the project's route.
Credit Eversource

Opponents of a new Eversource transmission line on the Seacoast are asking the state Supreme Court to review the project, even as construction gets underway.

The Conservation Law Foundation and residents of Durham filed appeals Monday on the Site Evaluation Committee's decision last December to let construction of the “Seacoast Reliability Project” proceed.

The $84-million high-voltage power line will run about 13 miles between Madbury and Portsmouth, with a mile buried beneath Little Bay between Durham and Newington.

Those two towns have already inked settlements with Eversource to offset the project’s economic impacts.

But now, the nonprofit CLF and a group of Durham residents near the power line’s route argue the governor and Executive Council should be required to sign off on one aspect of construction – the installation of concrete mattresses in sensitive Little Bay wetlands.

“This appeal provides an opportunity for the [state Supreme] Court to address important questions about how private entities acquire a right greater than that of the public to use public waters and tidally submerged lands that, under New Hampshire’s public trust doctrine, the state holds in trust for the benefit of the public,” CLF attorney Tom Irwin wrote in his appeal.

Eversource says they believe the SEC was right not to require governor and council approval for that portion of the project.

“[W]e are continuing to work closely with our host communities to make this critical reliability project a reality for the benefit of all residents and businesses in the Seacoast region,” said Eversource spokeswoman Kaitlyn Woods in a statement.

Eversource still needs a federal permit for wetlands construction from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Woods says they “plan to move forward” with that phase of the project once that permit is in hand.

Public comment on the Army Corps permit is open until May 23. CLF has also requested a public hearing on the issue, but there’s no word yet whether that will happen.

Meanwhile, Woods says Eversource has begun construction of the project on land – specifically, in the parking lot of the Crossings mall in Newington.

The state Supreme Court will decide whether to take up the appeal of the project in the coming months.

If the case is accepted, it’ll be the third SEC decision reviewed by the Supreme Court in the past two years. The court allowed the Antrim Wind project to move forward last year, after opponents appealed its approval in 2017.

And this Wednesday, the court will hear oral arguments in Eversource’s 2018 appeal of the denial of its Northern Pass project.

CLF is also a respondent to that appeal, along with other nonprofits like the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.