Aug. 30–EXETER — Liberty Utilities’ pursuit of securing a land easement to construct a metering station for the proposed Granite Bridge pipeline on a portion of Department of Public Works’ property near route 101 was tabled by the Select Board Monday.
The Select Board opted to wait for additional input on a potential agreement with Liberty Utilities to construct a pipeline metering station on a 300-foot by 100-foot land easement on DPW property from the Conservation Commission and Planning Board. The Board also requested additional information from Liberty addressing lingering questions regarding the height of any of the proposed structures to be built on the site and the antennas that would be affixed to them, before the board decides whether or not to enter into the agreement.
The metering station would consist of a fenced-facility with three small buildings, two housing metering and pressure equipment for Liberty and the joint transmission Portland Natural gas system pressuring and metering equipment. The third building would be for telecommunications equipment, according to Michael Licata, government relations director for Liberty Utilities.
Under the terms of the agreement, Liberty Utilities would make a non-refundable up-front payment of $30,000 to the town of Exeter to secure the easement for the metering station. Then, upon the approval of the Granite Bridge pipeline’s application by the State of New Hampshire’sPublic Utilities Commission and Site Evaluation Committee, Liberty Utilities would pay Exeter an additional $100,000 to construct and operate the facility.
“This site we identified because of its proximity to (Route) 101, and also the existing joint facilities line, as well as the Granite State transmission line which feeds the Unitil system already exists on that site and we would be able to interconnect with that,” Licata said Monday. “From Liberty’s perspective whether you support the Granite Bridge project, whether you oppose the Granite Bridge project, I think everyone should agree it’s in everyone’s best interest to construct the smallest amount of infrastructure to meet the required need.”
The Granite Bridge is a proposed 16-inch, 27-mile long natural gas pipeline that would connect Manchester and Stratham. The application for the pipeline is currently under review by the state’s Public Utilities Commission. If and when it passes the PUC, the pipeline would require secondary approval from the SEC before construction can begin, which could take up to a year after PUC approval.
Licata said in the event the Select Board does not approve the metering station easement, Liberty Utilities would have to construct the facility on the other side of the Swampscott River and build and additional half-mile of pipeline under the river.
“This is not a vote on the project itself, just whether the project begins in Exeter or Stratham; whether we cross the Swampscott and construct another half-mile or whether we are able to place this on the easement and provide some revenue to the town,” Licata said.
Darren Winham, director of economic development, said his office was responsible for working with Liberty Utilities to arrive at a price for the easement.
“My department’s role was to negotiate a good financial deal for the Select Board to consider,” Winham said. “I believe $130,000, $30,000 of which is non-refundable, for a parcel that our assessors say is worth less than $10,000 is exactly that.”
Select Board Vice Chairwoman Kathy Corson said she wanted the agreement to establish which party would be responsible for maintaining the access road to the possible metering station.
“Who plows it? Who maintains it? When it gets so rutted somebody’s got to put gravel on it; we don’t have this written in (the draft agreement) and the building could be 30-feet high,” Corson said. “I’m not looking at this as whether we’re against or for the pipeline. This is a good option if they get their approvals to help because (they’re) not going to have to go under the river.”
The 4.86-acre parcel the easement sits on was formerly a cooperative nursery to grow street trees and was administered by the Department of Public Works and the Conservation Commission, which had yet to consulted about the potential Liberty Utilities agreement, Select Board Chairwoman Julie Gilman said.
“Part of that parcel had been used as a town nursery for free trees and street trees. It’s been used off and on for 50 years for that kind of thing with the Conservation Commission having some oversight,” Gilman said. “The concern was that the Conservation Commission wasn’t informed about this and had not given any comments.”
Licata said because the Granite Bridge application is to construct a large-scale infrastructure project, the SEC acts as a planning board of sorts for the state and the necessary permits Liberty would be required to obtain, such as the shoreland permits, wetland permits, alteration of terrain permits, would be included in the Granite Bridge application in front of the SEC. He said Liberty would be amenable to meeting with the Exeter Planning Board and Conservation Commission to collaborate on how to landscape the parcel, the massing of the buildings and potentially conserve some of the area to restart the nursery.
“We would be happy to go in front of the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission to talk about what we’re proposing,” Licata said. “If they would like it to look a certain way, have certain plantings, clear space for a nursery; we’re willing to work through that process.”
Liberty Utilities will appear before the Select Board again during its next meeting on Sept. 10.
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