CONCORD – Concern for the environment surrounding a proposed $100 million wind farm near Plymouth was the focus of testimony Wednesday in the third day of hearings before a state licensing board.
The threatened peregrine falcons live and raise their young on the Rattlesnake Cliffs in Rumney, less than a mile from a ridgeline proposed for the construction of 400-foot wind turbines for the Groton Wind Farm.
Golden eagle, northern harrier and loons were among the threatened and endangered species also found on the property. Although no longer listed, bald eagles were also found.
Concern that these and other birds will strike the turbines and die is a potential adverse impact of the renewable energy product.
Adam Gravel, who did avian studies on behalf of the developer, Iberdrola Renewables, took the witness stand and said studies have found that raptors avoid turbines, such as eagles at Mars Hill in Maine.
“They didn’t avoid the ridge but they avoided the turbines,” Gravel told a subcommittee for the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, which is considering the request to permit the 48-megawatt wind park.
Gravel notes that these small raptors can kill other birds at in-flight speeds of up to 200 mph.
“To think they cannot see a turbine is unreasonable,” he said.
Iberdrola Renewables owns and operates the state’s first wind park in Lempster. That site is half the size of this proposed project, which looks to construct 24 turbines in clusters on the ridges of Fletcher and Tenney mountains.
Results of bird studies on the Lempster site are submitted to federal officials, as would be the case at Groton, Gravel said.
The project is meeting with resistance from some local residents while it is also supported as a means to get more renewable energy in the state.
The wind park would be visible from the entire Baker River valley and much of West Plymouth. The state Division of Historical Resources has rejected impact studies done by Iberdrola as “a non-reviewable work product” with “substantive deficiencies.” Much more work to analyze the impacts of the project on the character of Rumney’s historic district and two properties in West Plymouth were noted.
Yesterday the focus was on impacts to water and birds.
Gravel said there are recommended guidelines to develop wind farms and analyze impacts on birds and bats. He said they have surveyed and sampled the property within migratory periods. After the turbines are up, the company will need to monitor impacts to a variety of listed threatened and endangered species.
The project also sought and received an alteration of terrain permit and a wetlands permit from the state Department of Environmental Services to build and improve logging and woods roads on the project.
Michael J. Leo, Peter J. Walker and Nancy Rendall of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., Transportation Land Development Environmental Services of Bedford took the stand to support their engineering plans.
Evan Mulholland, assistant attorney general, objected to the addition of an amendment to the application that proposed an alternate interconnection route for the power coming off the property. He said it was too late to change the plan.
Iberdrola officials explained they agreed to look to a new route for transmission at the last minute because Rumney selectmen did not want them to use Groton Hollow and Quincy roads for transmission lines.
Instead, the proposed route would be to connect on Route 25 near the Quonset Hut. There would be additional wetlands affected if the new route is accepted, Rendall confirmed.
Rumney resident Cheryl Lewis questioned blasting and effects on local wells. Blasting will be required to build the turbines.
Lewis said the town’s aquifer is located near the project, and she expressed concern about minimizing the risks of the project to the acquifer.
“A lot of people in town rely on their wells not being polluted and not having any issues,” she said.
Leo said the project is located outside the designated aquifer zone.
“I don’t believe we are going to be having any blasting occurring within 2,500 feet,” of a well, he said.
Mulholland noted a $150,000 mitigation payment will need to be made by Iberdrola to a fund to improve aquatic habitat as was suggested by Army Corps of Engineers to compensate for wetlands fill.
Concern for what contaminants are left in the rock after it has been blasted, including nitrates, were discussed but engineers said the effects are lessened by the introduction of air.
SEC member Mike Harrington questioned that and asked that the company to provide more information on “muck pile management.” He also said he was concerned that Groton Hollow Road could be blocked by construction vehicles which break down and wanted the company to address what they could do during construction to protect residents’ use of their road.
Thursday, members of the public are invited to address the subcommittee on the application at 2 p.m. at the state’s Walker Building, 21 S. Fruit St., in Concord.
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