NH: No pipeline through Amherst’s LCHIP land

AMHERST – A natural gas pipeline cannot go through Amherst’s Scott conservation land, the state Office of Energy and Planning has told the town.

Energy company Kinder Morgan’s planned natural gas pipeline route through southern New Hampshire crosses the Scott land, according to the agency’s Jan. 30 letter to the Board of Selectmen.

The 41-acre parcel is between Boston Post Road and Thortons Ferry Road and is the location of the Souhegan River canoe port. It was acquired through New Hampshire’s LCIP (Land and Community Heritage Investment Program) and is held in public trust, according to the letter.

“By law, the sale, transfer, conveyance or release of any such land or interest in land from public trust is prohibited,” wrote Tracey Boisvert, program director of the agency’s Conservation Land Stewardship Program.

Stephen and Charlotte Scott sold their farmland to the town in 1989 in what became Amherst’s first LCIP project, with the program funding $150,000 and the town $150,000 and the owner donating the remaining $28,000 cost.

The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program is an independent state authority that makes matching grants to communities and non-profits to preserve New Hampshire’s natural, cultural and historic resources.

The pipeline plan follows the power lines through Amherst except where they go past the high school and middle school. There they veer north between Thornton Ferry Road II and Simeon Wilson Road.

This is Kinder Morgan’s second try for a route.

Last year its initial mapping of a pipeline route through this area went through Hollis and Brookline and the 2,200-acre Beaver Brook Association property.

Pushback from Beaver Brook and conservation groups supporting it was at least part of the reason Kinder Morgan looked for alternatives and settled on the Milford-Amherst route, part of a 70-mile path that begins in Chesire County and ends in Dracut, Mass.

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, is developing the Northeast Energy Direct Project by upgrading infrastructure in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

The pipeline will help meet increased demand for natural gas, says Kinder Morgan, and help lower energy costs.

Opponents say a 36-inch wide pipeline will hurt property values and the environment and extend the reliance on fossil fuels and delay development of alternative and renewable energy projects.

About a dozen Amherst residents, including members of the Board of Selectmen and Conservation Commission, have formed a pipeline task force, which is documenting, said member Joe McCool in a phone interview, all the route’s impacts and the legal and environmental issues.

They plan to file a position paper with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by mid-March. March 18 marks the closing of the comment period.

The Scott conservation land, said McCool, along with the recreation fields and the river, make this a very sensitive area and inappropriate for a gas transmission line.

Kinder Morgan is holding an open house in Milford, at Hampshire Hills, on Tuesday, Feb. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.