Proposed pipeline avoids Ponemah Bog
AMHERST – The town has negotiated a new route with Kinder Morgan for its planned natural gas pipeline that avoids the Souhegan River, sensitive conservation areas and residential cul-de-sacs.
On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the Amherst Pipeline Task Force met for a half hour with energy company representatives to discuss the changes.
"The route is still not what we would like, e.g. the Amherst Christian Church is only about 240 feet away from the pipeline, John D’Angelo, selectmen’s representative to the Board of Selectmen, wrote in an email.
There is also some concern about the area around Thoreau Lane, he said, but, "Overall, it is a much less disruptive route through Amherst."
The original Amherst route for the underground transmission pipeline went through 4 miles of Amherst, including Ponemah Bog, which is considered a unique ecosystem, and at least one other conservation area. It also went through residential neighborhoods near Simeon Wilson Road, Thornton Ferry Road II and Patricia Lane, off Route 122, near the Hollis border.
Residents who live on cul-de-sacs near the planned route had said they would be trapped if there was an accident.
The new route enters Amherst from Milford along the electric power line right of way It has been shifted south about 500 feet where it crosses Route 122, avoiding the site of an approved workforce housing development, and is now between 300 and 700 feet south of Patricia Lane.
The route continues through the Bon Terrain industrial park, where it follows the railroad tracks; crosses about 1,400 feet of Hollis and enters Merrimack, paralleling the railroad right of way; crosses near The Home Depot; and continues south of 45 Continental Blvd., 1,100 feet from Thorntons Ferry School.
D’Angelo said the task force may ask for additional changes in Amherst.
Ever since Kinder Morgan dropped its plans for a northern Massachusetts route last winter and devised a new one that goes through southern New Hampshire – including Amherst, Merrimack and Milford – Amherst has been aggressively pushing back.
Its task force was formed last January, not long after the Texas-based company announced that the new route for its interstate Northeast Energy Direct project would go through 76 miles of New Hampshire.
In March, the task force sent a long, detailed letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission explaining how even minor changes to Ponemah Bog’s "unique and irreplaceable" ancient wetland would take decades to repair, why going under the Souhegan River four times was a poorly chosen and unnecessary route, and why the pipeline is incompatible with the town’s character and would cause "numerous adverse effects on one of New Hampshire’s most desirable places to live," permanently diminishing its quality of life.
It also faulted Kinder Morgan for not consulting the town before it set the route.
In June, the task force wrote a letter to federal regulators detailing the reasons it believes the high-pressure pipeline exploits New Hampshire for the benefit of Massachusetts.
And last month, the town wrote to Gov. Maggie Hassan, criticizing what it called her tacit support of a transmission pipeline that would disrupt 17 New Hampshire towns.
The NED project would bring gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania to Dracut, Mass., through New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Some of the route still goes through western Massachusetts, and opponents believe the original route through northeast Massachusetts was moved last December because of public pressure.
Minutes of the Sept. 16 meeting indicate Kinder Morgan would notify property owners affected by the new route, including the railroad.
The new route will be part of Kinder Morgan’s filing with FERC. Company spokesman Allen Fore said he anticipates FERC approval in fall 2016 and the start of construction in January 2017.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.