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Sheffield wind project needs Army Corps of Engineers review

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a letter saying it would not authorize a permit for the Sheffield Wind Farm without further review of environmental impact. [Download a copy of the letter from National Wind Watch.]

“You may not proceed with any proposed work within our jurisdiction until you have received written authorization from our office,“ states a letter dated Aug. 23 from Col. Curtis Thalken, Corps of Engineers district engineer. The letter also requests wind farm developer, Newton, Mass.-based UPC Wind Management, gets more state and local permits including a 401 Water Quality Certification.

Calls to UPC Wind in their St. Johnsbury office and at the Massachusetts headquarters were not immediately returned.

The Vermont Public Service Board on Aug. 8 approved the project submitted by UPC to build 16-turbines in Sheffield. The project also has the support of Sheffield voters and would provide 40 megawatts of renewable energy, or enough to power 15,000 average Vermont homes, according to the Web site www.sheffieldwind.com.

Concerns over waterways, wetlands, wildlife and habitat fragmentation are key issues with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Michael S. Adams, a senior project manager with the Department of the Army New England District Corps of Engineers.

“The Corps of Engineers permission is required under the Clean Water Act for the construction of the project,” Adams said. “At this time it is likely that an individual permit process is going to be required.”

Adams said the access road is also a concern because the proposed route is “not the least environmental damaging practicable alternative.” He said the least damaging route to the proposed construction site is tied up in a lawsuit, making it off limits.

Max Aldrich, chairman of the Sheffield board of selectmen said this morning he knew a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers would be required by following the PSB approval process, but had not been informed of the additional letter asking for the project to stop moving forward pending review.

Rob Ide, energy efficiency director with the Department of Public Service, said he did not know how much of a delay this review would pose because no large utilities have been proposed in the past few years since he held the office. The review process began the day the letter was sent out, Adams said.

By Carla Occaso
Free Press Correspondent

Burlington Free Press

14 September 2007