The proposed developer of the Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm in northern Somerset County will have to clarify their plans before being given the go-ahead by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
In a letter dated Feb. 19, the department asked Gamesa Energy USA to provide additional information as part of the application for the company’s post construction stormwater management plan.
The plan, once clarified and resubmitted within 60 days, will be used by the department to decide whether to issue Gamesa a national pollutant discharge elimination system permit.
Without a permit, the project would be unable to move forward, according to Gamesa officials. Despite the potential for stopping the project, the department’s request is really only a standard part of a process that will ensure the wind farm has minimal environmental impact, said Project Manager Tim Vought.
“It will let us showcase our ability to build environmentally sound projects,” he said.
The request will mainly require reorganizing many materials the company has already compiled as part of the erosion and sedimentation control plan they already submitted to the department, Vought said.
Resubmitting the application, which now exceeds 1,000 pages, within 60 days will not be a problem, he said.
Many of the requests in the technical letter ask Gamesa to address concerns brought forward by residents during an August meeting in Shade Township. The meeting was attended by more than 450 people.
Those concerns included questions about forest fragmentation, water quality, wildlife habitat, construction methods and possible health effects.
The department also instructed the company to update them on communications with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, all of whom have expressed written concerns about endangered species and habitat impact with the project.
For those opposed to the wind farm, which is projected to extend through parts of Shade and Ogle townships in Somerset County and Napier Township in Bedford County, the comprehensive response by the department is a good sign.
“They listened to what a lot of people said during the hearing,” Shaffer Mountain resident Jack Buchan Jr. said. “They are incorporating a lot of the things, a lot of the science we submitted at the hearing, and I think they’re recognizing that this is an unspoiled area with potential issues with endangered species, bird areas and wilderness trout streams.”
Buchan, who has been actively opposing the project for more than a year, said that Gamesa should consider siting the project on nearby reclaimed mine land. “This thing could all turn around in their favor,” he said.
However, Vought said wind studies on the site Buchan and other project opponents favor show it unfit for turbine development. “And we feel that we can meet the DEP’s requirements and show that we’re doing this to the best of our ability to make this project work environmentally.”
By Dan DiPaolo
26 February 2008
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