Concord, NH – Thursday’s SEC Adjudicative hearing sees the conclusion of witness testimony for Counsel for the Public’s Cultural and Historical Resources Expert Witness, Patricia O’Donnell of Heritage Landscapes, LLC and brings witness Mr. Bradley Thompson from the Clarksville-Stewartstown Combined Group to the witness stand. Today’s hearing focused heavily on O’Donnell’s independent revue of the impacts of the Northern Pass Project to cultural and historical sites along the proposed route.
The morning session brought questions from the Grafton County Commissioner as well as the Non-Abutting Property Owners—Ashland to Deerfield group. Ms. Saffo representing Grafton County asked a series of questions about the preservation of stone walls that run through Bethlehem on Route 302. Ms. Crane representing the Non-Abutting Property owners drew several sustained objections to her line of questioning regarding visibility of proposed transmission towers from specific locations near the Pemigewassett River, on the grounds that no such information was included in the witnesses pre-filed testimony. Chairman Honigberg asked Ms. Crane if these issues had been raised previously during a technical session where intervenors were allowed to ask any technical or visibility related questions they might have had.
During the Applicant’s examination of the witness, Attorney Walker focused discerning a portion of the witnesses’ testimony that related some 12,000 possible historical and cultural landmarks along the proposed routes. Mr. Walker established that the witnesses’ scope of the project was limited to the scope of an above ground historical resource review, and that the witness had not done an extended analysis of Archaeological resources. Additionally Attorney Walker questioned the witnesses’ review of previous projects that had applied certain rules and decisions for previous projects. The witness affirmed that she had not familiarized herself with how the SEC had applied the rules in prior decision – when the witness was asked if she thought it might be helpful to review how the SEC had applied rules and decisions regarding past projects before providing her analysis, the witness responded “Not Necessarily.”
Attorney Walker then turned his attention to the Witnesses’ analysis of “Cultural and historical” sites which were aggregated during public community meetings. These meetings were designated to allow the public to highlight cultural sites of significance in their communities, however it was noted that some such “Culturally significant” sites included specific family residences, which were submitted as culturally and historically significant to the homeowner simply because they happened to live there. The witness admitted that she did not perform analysis on specific entries to the list of culturally significant sites, meaning that of the approximately 12,000 that were entered in her testimony, there has been no in-depth review of which are actually culturally or historically significant. During the afternoon session, the witness also stated that they had not performed an in-depth review of unreasonable adverse impacts to cultural landscapes in a way that the SEC would require. During the Counsel for the Public’s cross examination, the witness asked if all of the 12,000 sites that she identified in her report would even be impacted, she responded that they wouldn’t.
During Mr. Bradley Thompson’s examination an issue was raised by Applicant’s Attorney Needleman, in which he objected to a line of questioning by the Joint Municipal Group attorney Pacik’s line of questioning, because the attorney was using friendly cross-examination to inappropriately expand an aligned parties’ testimony, essentially using a line of questioning simply to allow Mr. Thompson to expand his narrative about the negative personal impacts of the project. However, when Attorney Walker representing the Northern Pass Project asked Mr. Thompson if he would like to sit down privately to come up with a screening protocol that would hide proposed structures that he might approve of, he rejected the offer. Further, when Mr. Thompson was questioned about a number of issues he had raised in objection of the project, most of which were actually addressed in the project’s application, it became apparent that several of his grievances were issues that were not actually a part of the proposed project.