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VCE’s Investigation into the Environmental Health of the Lowell Mountains with Industrial Wind Turbines – July 2016  

Author:  | Environment, Vermont, Wildlife

WATER

1. The “wet” ponds are predominantly dry or are not holding the volume of water necessary to provide water quality treatment as required by the VT Stormwater Management Manual. Further, it is highly probable that instead of flowing through the outlet structure, stormwater is simply passing through the rock berms bypassing the water quality and peak flow attenuation necessary. This seepage is also highly likely causing the iron seeps to form (see below).

Stormwater ponds and level spreaders receive sedimentation that is regularly cleaned out and deposited uphill and seeded.

2. The iron seeps that are being found at the project perimeter, and specifically downslope of stormwater management features is being caused by stormwater or intercepted groundwater flowing over sulfide bearing rock and leaching out metals, and in particular iron.

When this occurs, the seep is comprised of a low pH (acid) floc that will both smother vegetation, wetlands and stream substrates, but also create an environment that will preclude vegetative growth. The preclusion of vegetative growth will lead to more soil instability and subsequent erosion.

See the geologic report prepared by a geologist retained by Princeton Hydro in 2011 and a paper on acid mine drainage and sulfide-bearing rock. The extensive and irreversible changes to the surface and groundwater hydrology of the mountain will continue to cause environmental damage well beyond the perimeter of the area of disturbance of this project.

BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS

PHOTO BEFORE – MAY 2011

PHOTO AFTER – JULY 2016

The headwaters of this mountain will be irreparably harmed. The monitoring thousands of feet downstream of the project to comply with the Water Quality Certificate will not detect the impacts to the headwater streams.

3. The photographs also reveal that the level spreaders and the wet ponds are causing erosion of the hillside and, in particular, the “vegetated buffers” that were claimed by KCW to reduce the flow of stormwater and prevent erosion. In fact, downstream of the level spreaders, the opposite is occurring.

The concentration of water in the vegetated buffers and other mountainside areas is exactly what Princeton Hydro stated would happen, not sheet flow down to the receiving wetlands and streams.

This is important for two primary reasons:

A) The concentrated flow means the stormwater model that KCW used to show that they met the stormwater peak flow attenuation requirements of the VSMM is fatally flawed and is not meeting the standards and is increasing stormwater runoff from the KCW site. The Water Quality Certification monitoring thousands of feet downstream of the project will not detect increases in flood waters that could impact downstream properties.

B) The concentrated flow is clearly eroding the forest floor in the vegetated buffers and mountainside receiving areas. This will continue to degrade the hillside and create larger and larger rills and gullies.

EXISTING STREAM CHANNEL

Existing stream channel is being overwhelmed. Sides are eroding.

WETLANDS

In May and October, 2011 we visited this beautiful wetland near turbine 8 which be seen at the end of Energize Vermont’s video.

2011

2016

The wetland is mostly dry now, with a die-back of sphagnum moss. This wetland was very special because it flowed both north and south. While parts of Vermont are in drought, this area is experiencing relatively normal rainfall.

INVASIVE SPECIES

The evidence of the extensive use of herbicides on the site shows that the project is promoting the growth of invasive species of plants, which will likely be required to be eradicated in perpetuity. The project is promoting the growth of such invasives that will eventually spread deep into the prior relatively unfragmented forest.

 

According to the 2015 Invasive Species Report,

“A total of 51.5 gallons of mixture was applied at the designated sites across the entire KCW invasive plant monitoring area including the restored logging roads (see 2015 Invasive Vegetation Monitoring Maps). A two way mix was used for the application: Milestone VM Plus and Rodeo at 4 percent.”

Milestone VM Plus contains chemicals that are moderately toxic to aquatic organisms and have very high potential for mobility in soils.

Rather than promoting environmentally friendly manual removal of invasive species, GMP has chosen to use huge quantities of chemicals, including at the edge of water.

WILDLIFE

Wildlife on the Lowell Mountains are being exposed to wind turbine noise at very high levels. Click on these two images to hear what the wildlife are exposed to now.

FORESTS

The areas shown in these two photos have been completely destroyed.

Montane Yellow Birch forest is now turbine 13

Serpentine boulder is now turbine 18

The forest edges around the roads are dying.

ANR’s Eric Sorensen testified to the PSB in the GMP Lowell Wind case:

This project will result in the construction of 6.5 miles of 65 to 205 foot wide, mostly rock- blasted road and turbine pads in mature montane forests along a ridgeline in one of the larger blocks of unfragmented habitat in the region.

At the construction site for this Project there will not merely be a change in vegetation type, but instead there will be a complete conversion from mature montane forests to industrial wind farm.

This area will be permanently altered by removal of soil, bedrock blasting, and regrading. We cannot predict what will grow on this disturbed site after decommissioning, but we can be confident that it will not be the mature Montane Spruce-Fir Forest or Montane Yellow Birch-Red Spruce Forest that occurs there now.

Ecologist Sorensen’s testimony is proving to be accurate. The Montane Yellow Birch Forest is experiencing group mortality which is not normal.

From ANR’s Eric Sorenson’s testimony about the Yellow Bird-Red Spruce Forest

This image from the 2015 invasive species report shows the area of the intersection of the access road with the ridgeline road, along with the chart from the same report that shows that the invasive species are increasing and spreading every year. These invasives will eventually make their way to the interior forest.

WIND PROJECTS IN VERMONT – OPERATING, PROPOSED, DEFEATED

Key:

Red Square: Operating: Georgia Mountain, four 2.5 MW 440 foot tall, Lowell Mountain, twenty one 3 MW 459 foot tall, Sheffield sixteen 2.5 MW 420 foot tall.

Orange Square: Actively Proposed: Swanton Rocky Ridge seven 2.5 MW 490+ foot tall, Irasburg, two 2.5 MW 490+ foot tall, Holland one 2.5 MW 490+ foot tall, Windham/Grafton twenty eight 3.45 MW 490+ foot tall, Searsburg/Windham fifteen 2.0 MW 417 foot tall.

Green Circle: Successfully Defeated: Glebe Mountain, Little Equinox, Ira, Pittsford Ridge, Northfield Ridge, Derby Line, Newark/Brighton/Ferdinand.

This report was compiled by Annette Smith, Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Most of the narrative was written by Princeton Hydro. Photos are by VCE’s field investigator, who will be writing more about his findings. Information is from public records.

About Vermonters for a Clean Eenvironment: VCE’s mission is to raise the voices of Vermonters and hold corporations accountable for their impacts on our people, our land, our air and our water. We are united in the belief that Vermont’s future lies in conserving its clean, rural, small-town environment. We have joined together to pursue the common goals of encouraging economic development with minimal environmental impacts and preserving Vermont’s natural beauty. VCE is committed to providing facts and information so that people can make informed decisions. We encourage your participation.

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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