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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Engineers hired by Beaver Brook Association present alternate pipeline routes through Hollis, Brookline

HOLLIS – Beaver Brook Association presented its engineers’ ideas of alternative routes for a natural gas pipeline that may be running through Hollis at a special meeting Monday, but also heard that changes being sought in Massachusetts could change things further.

“There’s a larger effect in Middlesex County (Massachusetts) towns to move the entire pipeline so it runs through public lands. That might affect what you’re doing,” said Dennis Eklof of Groton, Mass., part of a just-formed group of towns targeted by Kinder Morgan for a gas distribution pipeline. ...

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HOLLIS – Beaver Brook Association presented its engineers’ ideas of alternative routes for a natural gas pipeline that may be running through Hollis at a special meeting Monday, but also heard that changes being sought in Massachusetts could change things further.

“There’s a larger effect in Middlesex County (Massachusetts) towns to move the entire pipeline so it runs through public lands. That might affect what you’re doing,” said Dennis Eklof of Groton, Mass., part of a just-formed group of towns targeted by Kinder Morgan for a gas distribution pipeline.

Eklof spoke Monday evening at a special meeting of the Hollis Board of Selectman that heard about three possible alternatives developed to a transmission pipeline drawn up by Tri-Mont Engineering Co. of Braintree, Mass., on contract for Beaver Brook Association.

Two of the proposals run north through Brookline to the west of Kinder Morgan’s Hollis proposal, then cut through Milford and Amherst to Route 101A in Nashua; the third runs through Hollis mostly along Route 122, to the east of Kinder Morgan’s plan.

The two Brookline proposals are around 15½ miles long, more than the 12.2 miles of Kinder Morgan’s plan, while the Route 122 route is shorter at 11.4 miles. As a rule of thumb, natural gas distribution pipelines cost $1 million a mile to build, although many factors can alter that figure.

The proposals will be the subject of a Monday public hearing by the Hollis Board of Selectmen.

That meeting will probably be moved out of Town Hall because of expected crowds: Sixty people showed up to Monday’s meeting to see the 20-minute presentation.

New England is wrestling with a shortage of natural gas during the winter, when it’s needed for heating and running the power plants that generate about half the region’s electricity. This has raised prices sharply mid-winter and taken the region close to rolling brownouts.

All six of the region’s governors support the idea of bringing in more gas from shale fields in New York and Pennsylvania but building pipelines is difficult because of local opposition.

Earlier this year, Kinder Morgan proposed building a 187-mile-long transmission pipeline, 3 feet in diameter, across northern Massachusetts, to bring billions of cubic feet of natural gas from New York state to existing facilities in Dracut, Mass. It also has unofficially proposed building a dozen transmission-line offshoots, roughly a foot in diameter, including one through Hollis to a Liberty Utilities facility on Route 101A in Nashua.

Opposition has been building in Massachusetts to the plan. At least two towns in that state have held non-binding special town meetings and voted against hosting a pipeline, while on Sunday about 150 people started a protest walk in Richmond, Mass. They plan to make their way along the approximate path of the proposed pipeline, ending in Dracut on July 26.

In Hollis on Monday, Eklof pointed to Massachusetts State Route 2 and Interstate 90 as possible east-west routes across Massachusetts for the transmission line; both locations are further south than the route proposed by Kinder Morgan.

Under Kinder Morgan’s initial proposal, which faces at least a year of federal and state regulatory review, the distribution line would run from the transmission line in Pepperell through Hollis to Nashua, crossing several miles of Beaver Brook land as well as property owned by scores of others.

Beaver Brook hired Tri-Mont, which has dealt with Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. in the past, to develop some alternatives.

“It really comes down to very basic point: Our land is conservation land, protection with conservation easements,” said Drew Kellner, president of Beaver Brook Association. Conservation easements are legal documents which detail uses allowed on property. “We are legally bound to defend against any development on the land not spelled out in easement documents, and pipelines are not (allowed).”

The 50-year-old Beaver Brook Association, headquartered in Hollis, owns and manages approximately 1,900 acres in Hollis, 100 acres in Brookline and 200 acres in Milford.

Tri-Mont was told to “avoid Beaver Brook lands, avoid all conservation land if possible, use as many existing rights of way as possible” and end at the designated endpoint – a Liberty Utilities facility on Route 101A in western Nashua.

The engineering firm developed three possibilities:

The western-most proposal starts in Townsend, Mass., and cuts through Brookline in the right-of-way of Route 13. At the Milford border, it heads east under a power line through Milford, connects with Bon Terrain Drive in Amherst, and cuts along various industrial roads in that town parallel to Route 101A before entering Nashua. It runs 15.8 miles.

The next proposal east also starts in Townsend, enters Brookline and cuts through various non-easement “off-road” properties – that is, not along road right of ways – including a long stretch of the Brookline/Hollis town border, before hitting Bon Terrain Drive and following the path of the western-most proposal. It runs 15½ miles.

The easternmost proposal, starts in Pepperell, Mass., and runs through Hollis along 5 miles of Route 122 before cutting across the Pennichuck ponds to Nashua. It runs 11.4 miles.

The map presented Monday night does not include detailed specifications.

“This is desktop-level research, not completely engineered routes. It’s essentially a similar process to what Kinger-Mrgan has undertaken at this point,” Kellner said.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com Also, follow Brooks on Twitter @GraniteGeek