Merrimack Valley Reliability Project

TEWKSBURY - In an effort to ensure effective and ongoing communication to residents, National Grid held an Open House at the Senior Center on Thursday night.

As winter in the northeast would have it, many residents made the decision to just stay home, leaving the event sparsely attended.

Nonetheless, more than 15 employees of National Grid as well as communications consulting company Hilltop Public Solutions were on hand to answer questions and explain the scope of the project.

The Merrimack Valley Reliability Project (MVRP) is being headed up by National Grid and Eversource (formerly NStar and its parent company Northeast Utilities) for installation of a new 345-kV overhead transmission line along 24.6 miles of existing transmission rights-of-way corridor in the Merrimack Valley. The proposed line will run within an existing right-of-way over 18 miles in Londonderry, Hudson, Windham and Pelham, NH and 6.5 miles through Dracut, Andover and Tewksbury, MA.

The new line, which will run through the existing route in Tewksbury, aims to increase system reliability critical to Tewksbury’s residents and businesses. The project is estimated to create about $41 million in investment in the local economy and, once completed, is expected to provide approximately $388,800 in tax revenues annually to Tewksbury. In addition, it is expected to create about 1,000 jobs in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

National Grid and Eversource have been working to provide extensive outreach to communities throughout the project with an aim to elicit feedback from neighbors, public officials and other stakeholders, as well as undertaking rigorous multi-state and federal site and permitting processes to obtain approvals for the project. The companies plan to make every effort to inform local officials, residents, businesses and community groups throughout the process.

Jackie Barry, Communications Director for National Grid, took time to outline program descriptions of work planned to have minimal impact to the community and environment. Hilltop Public Solutions Consultant Pete Kavanaugh explained to the Crier, “Communication is not mandatory at this point. This is just National Grid ensuring communication to the community.”

Brochures, maps, and other detailed information were made available to residents, specifically information for landowners along transmission lines including a notification of vegetation work. Maps showing work to be done reflect new lines replacing existing old lines in basically the same areas minimizing impact.

National Grid utilizes a program called Integrated Vegetation Management. The vegetation work includes removal of trees dangerously close to lines, which could potentially spark a wildfire. Electric current flowing through a tree can electrocute anyone in close proximity, so assuring trees remain clear of transmission lines will both clear the way for access to lines as well as ensure the safety of the community, particularly those residents living closest to lines.

Specifically for Tewksbury, the work will start at an existing substation (near Route 38) and then head north in the existing right-of-way, crossing Route 495 and Route 133. The overall Project will require the reconfiguration of the existing structures within the right-of-way to accommodate the new line. In Tewksbury, National Grid will work in approximately 1.87 miles of the right-of-way and relocate approximately 59 structures and add approximately 20 new structures.

National Grid has been working to determine the need for the project slated to cover the Greater Boston, Southern New Hampshire region which have the most concentrated and fastest growing electronic demand, according to ISO-NE, a third party Regional Transmission Organization (RTO).

ISO-NE oversees the operation of New England’s bulk electric power system and transmission lines, and is responsible for operating New England’s 32,000 megawatts bulk electric power generated transmission system. The organization works to ensure constant availability of electricity.

National Grid received its first permit in November of 2014 however work is not expected to commence until 2016. The companies will file federal permits and MA DPU permits in early spring of 2015 and the restructured lines are expected to be in service in 2017.

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