Conservation Commission responds to headlines in Cabinet and Telegraph

To the Editor:

Recent articles in both the Nashua Telegraph and the Milford Cabinet used their headlines to imply that the Amherst Conservation Commission might support the proposed construction of the 36 inch gas pipeline through town. The headline was not correct. The Amherst Conservation Commission has not yet taken an official position on the pipeline, except for writing an objective environmental assessment of the proposed route through Amherst.

In January, Amherst selectmen asked the Conservation Commission to prepare a comprehensive report on the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline.

A thorough, 30+ page report was written in 2 months by a subcommittee of the Conservation Commission. The commission reviewed and approved the environmental assessment on March 11, and unanimously approved its release. The report identifies more than 40 detrimental environmental impacts along the proposed route through Amherst. Many impacts were short term, but some, including the impacts on the Ponemah Bog, the Souhegan River, and the clearing of miles along the route have the potential for larger and longer term impacts.

The only positive identified in the report was the possibility that, like many other developments, some sort of mitigation (a direct offset) might be required to compensate for the destruction or harm to existing natural environments. Often some development projects create replacement wetlands, or contribute to the purchase of replacement conservation land. Federal law would require some sort of similar mitigation, but in the end no environmental mitigation can ever replace the loss incurred by the complete development.

The full report is available online at www.amherstnh.gov, under the link Tennessee Gas Pipeline.

The bottom line is that the proposed pipeline right of way includes 30.1% of its route over open space and vacant land, 56% over residential properties, with the rest divided among commercial, institutional, utility, and school properties. The ACC is dedicated to preserving conservation lands as well as all lands in the town, including those affected by the pipeline. It is clear that alternatives exist which do not have such a significant impact on important Amherst open space and residential areas. The Amherst Conservation Commission will continue to work together with our Board of Selectmen and Amherst residents to make sure that a better alternative is found.

JOHN HARVEY

Chairman

Amherst Conservation Commission