This week’s SEC adjudicative hearings conclude with witnesses Mr. Edwin Mellett, a witness called by the Town of Northumberland, followed by Mr. Harry Dodson, from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire’s Forests. Mr. Mellett’s witness examination focused in on a series of issues he had raised regarding the proposed Northern Pass project, and the steps that the applicant has previously taken to address these concerns. Mr. Dodson’s turn on the witness stand looks at a VIA “Visual Impact Assessment” report that he prepared, in juxtaposition to a VIA provided by the Applicant.
Mr. Mellett is called for a relatively short series of questions, first by Ms. Fillmore, representing the Town of Northumberland. Ms. Fillmore asked Mr. Millette a series of questions regarding whether Eversource had been in contact with him in regards to Wetland Preservation. Following Ms. Filmore’s questioning, Attorney Aslin, Counsel for the Public, asks Mr. Mellett about timber mats. Timber mats are a proposed ground protection measure which the Applicant has suggested it may use to help protect and preserve wetlands during the project. Mr. Mellett had concern with timber mats potentially failing if used in the summertime, though upon questioning from Mr. Aslin, it became clear that the witness agreed that in his experience using timber mats in wetlands, he had never experienced one fail personally.
Attorney Walker, representing the Northern Pass Project questioned Mr. Millette in regards to a series of concerns he had lodged with the project. Attorney Walker asks Mr. Millette if he realized that the DES had his concerns in front of them when they approved the project plans, Mr. Millette answered yes. Furthermore the Witness agreed that there had been a significant number of conversations between the Applicant and the DES. The witness, however, was unaware that there had also been a number of communications between the Applicant and the Town of Northumberland to ensure that every effort was being taken to preserve the town and its wetlands.
Ms. Buckley, representing The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests then called and questioned their own witness, Mr. Harry Dodson. The line of questioning attempted to manage and redress criticism of Mr. Dodson’s VIA which had been raised by Mr. Dewan, who prepared the Applicant’s filed VIA report.
Mr. Dodson Fields questioning from The Counsel for the Public, followed the Abutting Property Owners, Deerfield, the Pemigewasset group, and the Grafton County Commissioners. Their questions ranged from Mr. Dodson’s methodology, to Mr. Dodson’s opinion on the impacts of the project and potential mitigation possibilities.
During the Applicant’s examination of the witness, Attorney Needleman established that Mr. Dodson had never conducted a VIA in New Hampshire, furthermore that prior to preparing this specific work he hadn’t reviewed the SEC rulings. Mr. Dodson then affirms that his report was not a VIA, it was more specifically just a critique of the proposed line – Even though the title of the document Mr. Dodson had prepared says “Visual Impact Assessment” and the very first page of the document claims that the document is Mr. Dodson’s Visual Impact Analysis. During the line of questioning it becomes clear that Mr. Dodson’s submitted work is simply a critique of an existing VIA prepared by Mr. Dewan, rather than a full VIA. Attorney Needleman follows these questions by asking whether Mr. Dodson was complimentary of the Applicant’s Viewshed Analysis, Mr. Dodson agrees. Attorney Needleman continues his line of questioning, examining the differences between Mr. Dodson and Mr. Dewan’s approach. After a question regarding Mr. Dodson’s way of viewing Scenic Resources, the witness replies that he hasn’t looked at transmission projects before, but he has looked at different projects in different states. Mr. Dodson also agrees that it might have been helpful to look at how the SEC had reviewed visual impacts in previous projects.
Further highlighting Mr. Dodson’s approach to qualifying scenic resources, attorney Needleman asks the witness why he has marked 43 roads as tourist destinations under the SEC rules definition. Mr. Dodson contests that he believes roads, even non-scenic byways can be considered tourists destinations, though when Mr. Dodson was asked to point to anything in his report to support his opinion, that the 43 roads were, in fact tourist destinations, he could not. Attorney Needleman presents a transcript of the rulemaking process from the SEC dating 2015, that indicates that cumulative impacts are to be used when regarding wind projects. Mr. Needleman then asks Mr. Dodson whether he thinks that cumulative impacts would be inappropriate to look at for transmission lines, Mr. Dodson says yes.