WINCHESTER – A controversial natural gas pipeline is no longer proposed to go through the town’s drinking water aquifer, but the Pulpit Falls and Pulpit Rock property remain in its path.
And that has prompted town officials to allow representatives involved with the pipeline’s development to tour the site, under supervision.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. officials met with Winchester selectmen and conservation commission members Wednesday afternoon to unveil a new preferred route for the pipeline through the town of roughly 4,300 people.
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, a Kinder Morgan company, is proposing to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from shale gas fields in Pennsylvania through upstate New York, part of northern Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire before going to a distribution hub in eastern Massachusetts.
The proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline would cross 71 miles of southern New Hampshire, including the Monadnock Region towns of Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester.
Mike Lennon, land agent for Tennessee Gas Pipeline, said the plan is to have the pipeline travel south of the aquifer and wellhead protection area instead of through it.
The new route would have the pipeline leave from Eversource’s electric transmission lines just north of Pulpit Falls and Pulpit Rock, according to preliminary maps provided by Tennessee Gas Pipeline officials at the meeting. The pipeline would cross Tipping Rock Road, and roughly five private properties, heading east before reaching Warwick Road. It would continue east before taking a sharp turn north just after crossing Scotland Road. It would then cross Pudding Hill Road as it continues north.
“At this point, we’re just here to update you, start dialogue, and see if there are other areas of concern,” Lennon said to selectmen and conversation commission members.
The previous plan to run the pipeline through the aquifer concerned the community, and the new preferred route takes that into consideration, he said.
“This is by no means a final route,” he said.
Lennon presented Winchester selectmen and conservation commission members with what he described as “preliminary and crude” maps of the new proposed route that were based on town tax maps and Google Maps.
“We will begin the process of developing updated mapping and starting a dialogue with those property owners on the route south of the aquifer,” he said.
Conservation commission member Benjamin Kilanski asked how many properties would be affected by the new preferred route, and how many, now, would not be.
Lennon said about 17 properties along the previous preferred would no longer be affected, but roughly 17 new properties would be.
“But this is all preliminary,” he said.
Based on the preliminary maps, some of the newly affected properties are owned by Daniel H. Kennedy and Claude F. Kidwell, both on Tipping Rock Road; Arthur D. Leigh off Curtis Road; Nelson J. Murray Trustee; Virginia Morgan Trust at 539 Warwick Road; Hugh E. and George R. McGovern on Warwick Road; Spaulding 2012 Revocable and Warren H. Spaulding, both on Scotland Road; Robert A. Briggs, Jason R. Cardinale and Virginia M. Parker, all on Scotland Road; and the Rev. Cynthia Ryder Trust on Pudding Hill Road.
Conservation commission member Bonnie Leveille asked what will happen to the previous preferred route now that there is a new one being proposed.
Lennon said the old route remains on the table as an alternative.
Selectmen Chairwoman Roberta A. Fraser said while the new route deviates from the aquifer, she is still concerned because it’s going through Pulpit Falls and Pulpit Rock.
“The board has taken a stand that we don’t want the pipeline in town. We’re following the wishes of citizens at town meeting,” she said. “Pulpit Falls is as much of a concern as the aquifer, if the pipeline does come through town.”
Pulpit Falls and Pulpit Rock are on town-owned land that has a conservation restriction saying that the site “forever be held as a nature preserve or conservation area for scientific, education and/or aesthetic purposes.” Only fences, foot trails and property maintenance activities are allowed, the deed says.
The restriction was written into the deed for the roughly 30 acre property between Routes 10 (Manning Hill Road) and 78 (Warwick Road) as part of the town purchasing it from Amy M. St. Clair in 2008.
Kinder Morgan and Tennessee Gas Pipeline officials said they hadn’t set foot on the property at the wishes of town officials who said surveying isn’t allowed under the conservation restriction.
That will now change after the conservation commission voted Wednesday to allow company officials to “walk through” the property.
The 4-1 vote with one abstention came after town officials tried to communicate to Tennessee Gas Pipeline representatives the importance of having the pipeline avoid the area.
“I can tell by the way you’re describing it, you’ve never been there,” conservation commission member John H. Hann said. “You really need to see it to understand.”
Hann and Fraser will accompany the Tennessee Gas Pipeline and Kinder Morgan officials during the visit to the site.
This article was written by Meghan Foley from The Keene Sentinel, N.H. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.