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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.