The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are concerned about waterways and wetlands that may be disturbed during the construction of a wind farm in Sheffield.
Because of these concerns, the two have decided UPC Wind must file for a federal permit under the individual review process rather than under a general permit. The individual review is more time consuming than a general review, according to Matt Kearns, project manager for UPC.
“There is nothing new here,” Kearns said Friday. All large development projects need federal permits under the Federal Wetlands Protection Act, he said.
“Just because we’re clean and green doesn’t mean we are exempt,” Kearns said.
UPC filed for a general permit July 3, he said. But the letter from the Army Corps of Engineers states, to qualify for a general review, the project will have to be modified.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that more studies need to be done on risks to birds and bats, according to a letter sent by Col. Curtis Thalken, district engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, to David Cowan, vice president of environmental affairs for UPC.
The service also has concerns about the proposed access road, stating it is not the least environmentally damaging and use of Dareois Road may have less impact.
These views are in direct conflict to those of the Vermont Public Service Board. When the PSB issued a certificate of public good in August to UPC to construct 16 420-foot wind turbines in Sheffield, the board placed 32 conditions to the permit.
One of those conditions states: “UPC may not use Dareios Road to access the project site during construction, except in the case of emergencies.”
Kearns said Friday Dareios Road would be the best option, but due to concerns raised during PSB hearings the road is now off limits.
“We are abiding by the PSB requirements,” Kearns said. “We have to go to the next best thing. Our goal is to minimize any wetland disturbance.”
For that reason, UPC would like to start some site preparation this winter, Kearns said.
As far as impacts on wildlife, the PSB noted in its decision, “the applicant has, commendably, conducted studies in accordance with the requests of the Agency of Natural Resources. The applicant also has entered into an agreement with ANR that includes measures to reduce, mitigate and further assess the project’s impacts on wildlife. With the benefit of the solid groundwork provided by the applicant and the protective measures set forth in the agreement with ANR, we have been able to conclude that the projects, as conditioned in this order, will not have an undue adverse impact on wildlife or on necessary wildlife habitat.”
Cowan, has been talking with Michael Adams, a staff member at the Army Corps of Engineers in Essex Junction, Kearns said, and meetings are scheduled for next week.
Cowan and Adams could not be reached for comment Friday. No one was available at the Corps’ office in Essex Junction Friday afternoon.
In February 2006, UPC filed for a certificate of public good to build a 52-megawatt facility in Sutton and Sheffield. UPC pulled out of Sutton after the townspeople said they would fight the project. The wind farm has been a controversial issue dividing towns and pitting neighbor against neighbor. Voters in Sheffield supported the project in 2005. The town and UPC have worked out an agreement whereby the town will receive between $400,000 and $550,000 a year, if the project is completed.
By Jeanne Miles
15 September 2007
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