Franconia and the Northern Pass

For the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee docket no. 2015-06:

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Franconia is a small quiet rural town, situated as a valley located at the north western edge of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The controversial Northern Pass (energy from Hydro-Quebec and Eversource) has proposed to construct underground transmission lines* through the historic downtown and along scenic Easton Road, Route 116, with many historic inns and sites, businesses, homes, farms, a glider airfield, a historic graveyard, and a school. Construction of high power underground transmission lines through this historic town would cause a major disruption to the lives of residents, has the potential to cause property damage especially to historic buildings with fragile foundations, will affect tourist activity and local town/school events, and property values would decline if the town is not restored consistent with the aesthetics of a quaint rural New Hampshire town. It would also conflict with the town’s current infrastructure of underground utilities.

Like other communities on the proposed underground transmission line route I advocate alternative routes along utilities corridors/interstate highways.

Because I’m baffled that this town was chosen as a route for the Northern Pass, I decided to photograph it to validate my confusion. This post starts with photos of Easton Road, Route 116 in Franconia , then goes through Easton (also a small rural town but more like a hamlet). Many of these historic homes and businesses are sited close to the road with fragile stone foundations, some have wells between their homes and road. Despite what I knew about the terrain, I was surprised to find so many more wetlands and streams traversing Easton Road than I knew about that could pose flooding and water damage issues to underground transmission lines. This discovery made me question whether Northern Pass thoroughly evaluated the area before making their proposal to bury underground lines here.

On the days I took these photos (some photos are from the summer), I counted 32 orange signs or bows in opposition to the Northern Pass along Easton Road.

Below is the start of Easton Road from Main Street. Homes are close to the road on both sides, the road is winding as indicated by the sign on the bottom right, the Ham Branch of the Gale River is close to the road, bottom left.

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A steamy river along Easton Road in Franconia

Below is the Franconia Inn area of Easton Road. As you can see from the sign, it’s a busy crossing where guests can enjoy the many activities the inn offers and to park. The historic Franconia Inn is on right. The berms give privacy to their inground pool, tennis courts and glider airfield are on the upper left. A historic cemetery is across the street. The two collage photos shows the inn from the other direction and more of the cemetery.

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Historic graveyard on bottom left, historic Franconia Inn on right (berms give privacy to inground pool), tennis courts and glider airfield on upper left

Below, the photos show one of the several horses at the inn (a photo taken during the summer). The inn offers horseback riding. Trails are in the fields and woods behind the inn.  During the winter months, the inn offers horse-drawn sleigh rides. The inn’s generous front porch is not far from the edge of Easton Road and has views of the northern edge of the White Mountains: Mittsill, Cannon, Mount Lafayette, and Kinsman Ridge. The glider airfield (photo taken in summer) is across the street from the inn. The bottom left photo shows a part of a cross country ski trail to the north eastern side of the inn, a network of trails that crosses Easton Road in some places that makes its way to the Horse & Hound Inn and back. Hand gliding and gliding are probably popular because of the unobstructed views, including Bethlehem as far north as one can see on a clear day to Canada.

Bicycling is another activity offered by the Franconia Inn. It’s a popular activity in the area and along the scenic tree-lined Easton Road, Route 116. Easton Road happens to be part of a popular touring loop bicyclers like to ride. It includes the Franconia bike path, Route 112 (also along the proposed underground transmission line route), Route 3 back to the bike trail. Some visitors often start at the beginning of the Franconia bike path at the Flume. It’s also part of many popular bicycling touring routes through Bethlehem and Lisbon.

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These global bike heatmaps of bicycling activity on Easton Road and nearby roads (through the notch it would be the bike trail and not route 93) show heavy use. This map was located on the Visit NH website, from the highlighted NH Bike/Ped link.

Further down Easton Road are more historic homes, this one with a large serene bucolic pasture with Scotland Highland steer.

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Scotland Highland Steer enjoy their quiet surroundings at feeding time in a bucolic pasture on Easton Road, Route 116, Franconia, New Hampshire. Idyllic scenes like this draw many visitors to the area
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Farm stand, a seasonal business, would be interrupted by Northern Pass.

Below, is where the farm stand is in summer. This historic inn or home and garage/barn across the street sit near the road and along a rolling portion of Easton Road.

Another home on Easton Road showing opposition to the Northern Pass with an orange  “No Northern Pass on Rte 116” sign. I counted 32 orange signs/bows that day.

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One of many homes showing opposition to the Northern Pass (orange sign on front lawn). I counted 32 orange signs/bows along Easton Road that day.

This idyllic farm below has a pond that drains under Easton Road out the other side.

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Bucolic and idyllic New Hampshire scene, one of many along Easton Road in Franconia, New Hampshire, is a popular scenic route on the north western edge of the White Mountain National Forest, drawing many visitors to the area

Another barn below, part of the historic tennis camp, has several buildings across the street. The barn is close to the road, has a fragile stone foundation (can be seen with close examination of thumbnail on right). A pond and access cap also sit on the road’s edge.

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Cows near the barn and evidence of drainage from the pond (above) to the other side of Easton Road:

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The collage below shows some of the many streams, ponds, rivers, wetlands along and crossing under Easton Road.

More barns and homes near the edge of Easton Road. This area is in Easton, New Hampshire:

Moose crossing warning sign. With the many wetlands, streams, and rivers I’m surprised there aren’t more of these signs. This is the White Mountain National Forest stretch of Easton Road but I have seen bears and moose on the Franconia side of Easton Road, and deer on Lafayette Road off Easton Road. The abundance of water along Easton Road, Route 116, is probably an important food and nesting resource for bears, moose, deer, beavers, and other wildlife. Below is a bear on Lafayette Road, just a short distance from Easton Road (as you can see by the bridge), and moose off Lafayette Road in the area (last summer photos that I took).

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Evidence of beaver life in the marshes behind the Franconia Inn and the Ham branch of the Gale River making its way toward Easton Road (between Lafayette Road and the Franconia Inn):

Wetlands and streams along both sides of the White Mountain National Forest stretch of Route 116, Easton Road, below:

The photos taken below show my daughter stopping to photograph the foliage along the scenic wooded White Mountain National Forest stretch of Easton Road and shows that the March wetlands in one of the thumbnails above (with the leaning Birch) is still wet during the fall:

Here is where I turned around when rain intensified at the end of Route 116, near Route 112. (I’ll take photos of Route 112 soon.) But take notice of the orange “warning curves ahead” sign. Easton Road, Route 116, is not only a rolling road but winding as well. Not a very straight route for the Northern Pass, adding more miles of materials/cost?

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Heading back, I noticed this warning post about an underground utility line.

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Easton Road, Route 116, provides the only access to two trailheads: Kinsman Trail and Coppermine Trail, which doesn’t have a sign but it further down the road:

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More homes and an inn close to the edge of Easton Road. Horse crossing and livestock signs.

During the summer, I had photographed this scene on the Franconia side of Easton Road, it is steam from the Ham branch (I believe) of the Gale River and runs along a portion of Easton Road, Route 116, between downtown and Bickford Hill Road, the road that leads visitors to the Frost Place. The other side of the road also has intermittent wetlands. This is the north eastern view:

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Again, below is the Ham branch of the Gale river along Easton Road looking south west. The bridge is on Bickford Hill Road and leads visitors to the Frost Place, home of Robert Frost and retreat for poets, poetry reading events:

And here is Main Street Franconia with the many buildings, businesses near the road that may have to close during construction of the Northern Pass, the Gale River, and the historic Iron Furnace tourist site. There’s a school on Main Street and the Gale River Inn practically sits on the road, on both sides:

The historic iron furnace and picnic area that are also close to the road on Main Street, Franconia. There’s also a short trail along the Gale River:

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PUBLIC INFORMATION AND COMMENTS

To learn more or voice your concerns/make a public comment regarding the Northern Pass Transmission line in New Hampshire which will impact many more communities than Franconia, please see:

https://www.forestsociety.org/advocacy-issue/northern-pass

Public comments can still be submitted here: https://fs30.formsite.com/jan1947/form32/index.html

PETITION: Here’s a petition to bury all of the Northern Pass or stop it. Actually I’d rather not see the Northern Pass in New Hampshire at all. But if it has to be I want it buried along utility corridors or highways away from towns.

http://www.conservationmediagroup.org/bury-or-stop-northern-pass-petition

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*How underground transmission lines are installed: Please see . . . 

http://www.northernpass.us/underground-construction-process.htm.  Splice vaults or splice pits would encroach on private property along the route through the town. These vaults need to be every 1200-1500 feet (the length of the lines), approximately, so that means there could be two splice vaults within each mile (5280 feet) of underground line! There hardly seems to be space for these vaults in downtown Franconia or along Easton Road, Route 116 given the wetlands, proximity of historic buildings to roads, wetlands, and so forth.

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More thoughts and information on the controversial Northern Pass here: https://passingthoughts2016.wordpress.com

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