The state will hold a public hearing this month on a proposed wind plant in Bedford and Somerset counties.
Gamesa Energy USA is seeking a national pollutant discharge elimination system permit for its Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm project, state Department of Environmental Protection officials said.
The public hearing, set for 6 p.m. Aug. 28 at Shade-Central City High School in Shade Township, Somerset County, was set after residents sent more than 300 letters to the DEP asking for their voices to be heard.
‘‘It’s certainly a significant number of letters, no question about it,’’ DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said.
News of the tentative project started to spread late last year, and in April, several citizens’ groups in both counties started a Web site, www.shaffermountain.com. As of last week, nearly 1,100 people had signed the online petition speaking out against the wind plant.
Those who oppose the wind project worry it could damage water quality in the Windber Area Watershed, although Gamesa officials deny that.
The watershed has two trout streams designated by the state as exceptional value streams, which means they have the highest water quality in Pennsylvania.
The permit deals with discharging stormwater from the wind farm’s construction site into waterways, including Cub, Piney and Beaverdam Runs and Clear Shade, Dark Shade, Little Dark Shade and Shingle Creeks in the Ohio River watershed.
Gamesa also wants to direct stormwater into Rocklick Creek and tributaries of Dunning Creek in the Susquehanna River watershed.
‘‘It’s how they are going to control the stormwater runoff during and after construction,’’ Humphreys said.
Gamesa officials say the project includes 30 turbines. The proposed project will be in Shade and Ogle townships in Somerset County, although it will include 1,000 feet of gravel road about 15 feet wide in Napier Township, officials said.
Representatives from Gamesa will provide information on the proposal and answer questions about the company’s permit application. The DEP also will answer questions about the review process.
‘‘Because they received so many letters asking for a public hearing, we have provided the most amount of time for public comment,’’ Humphreys said.
Residents will be able to present oral testimony for a maximum of five minutes, along with written testimony of any length. The DEP recommends that groups wanting to speak appoint a spokesperson.
The permit application is available for review at the DEP’s Southwest Regional office. To review the application, call 412-442-4000. The application also is on file with the Somerset County Conservation District Office.
By Allison Bourg
13 August 2007