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NH court sides with Eversource, OKs underground portion of Northern Pass

The use of public highways for underground cable lines for Eversource Energy's Northern Pass transmission project is allowed under New Hampshire law, the state's Supreme Court ruled.

The Jan. 30 decision upholds a previous ruling in May 2016 by the state Superior Court that had dismissed a claim from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The society, which owns property on both sides of the highway, argued that Northern Pass must have its approval to bury a portion of the line within the public right of way.

Local opposition to the project's original plan of using aboveground cables forced Eversource to bury 60 miles of the 192-mile line so to preserve scenic views in the White Mountain National Forest, the Appalachian Trail and the Franconia Notch area.

The latest court decision affirmed that the $1.6 billion project's proposal to use the Route 3 right of way to install underground cables for the high voltage direct current line falls under the scope of the public highway easement. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation still has a final say on the matter.

"The Forest Society has frequently demanded Northern Pass be buried, yet in this case, had filed this lawsuit to prevent its burial," Eversource subsidiary Northern Pass Transmission LLC said in a news release. "The Forest Society has also continued to raise the false notion that the use of eminent domain is possible for Northern Pass, when state law clearly prevents it, and the project does not require its use."

The Northern Pass project seeks to deliver 1,090 MW of hydroelectric power generated by Hydro-Québec into the ISO New England Inc. market. The line will run from Des Cantons substation in Québec to a converter station in Deerfield, N.H., where it will connect with the larger New England grid. The project is undergoing a federal permitting process, a full review by the U.S. Department of Energy and a state siting process. Developers anticipate a final decision from the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee later this year, with an in-service date of late 2019.