READSBORO- Green Mountain National Forest representatives were on hand at the Readsboro School Tuesday to obtain public comments on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement relating to the Deerfield Wind Project.
According to US Forest Supervisor Colleen Madrid, the purpose of the meeting was for people to ask questions and obtain factual information on the Deerfield Wind Project. Iberdrola Renewables, of Portland, OR, is seeking to build wind turbines on US Forest Service land in the GMNF. Iberdrola Renewables has already cleared one major hurdle when it received a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board on April 16, 2009. Now they await the GMNF’s decision before they can begin the project.
Madrid said the public has until March 4 to weigh in on the project. Once they receive the comments, the GMNF will analyze and release them in a final EIS. “We will make a final decision on the Deerfield Wind Project in the next (EIS). We should be making that decision sometime this summer. We’re looking for things we missed or things we don’t know about that need to be in the final document,” said Madrid.
The GMNF will take all comments and base their decision on four different Deerfield Wind Project proposals. The Deerfield Wind Project SDEIS states the GMNF’s final environmental impact statement must “define the project’s main concerns and disclose the environmental differences among the alternatives based on those issues” according to National Environmental Protection Act guidelines.
The first alternative is Iberdrola Renewables’ original proposal for 17 wind turbines. The project would be situated on 86.7 acres with seven wind turbines along Route 8 East in Readsboro and 10 turbines along Route 8 West in Searsburg. The turbines will stand 387 feet tall and they will generate up to 34 MW of electricity or two MW apiece.
The second alternative is a reduced presence along the Route 8 West ridgeline. The project would be situated on 81 acres and comprise 15 turbines generating up to 30 MW of electricity. The alternative was developed in order to mitigate potential impacts such as black bear habitat, avian and bat mortality, and miscellaneous visual concerns. The reduced number of turbines would also reduce the potential impact on beech trees, a food source for black bears.
The Route 8 East ridgeline alternative has the smallest footprint on GMNF land. The project would be situated on 44 acres, generate up to 14 MW of electricity, and result in the least impact to black bear habitat. The fourth and final alternative is “no action,” which means no turbines or facilities would be constructed.
Up to 30 residents attended Tuesday’s open house. Larry Lorusso lives in nearby Clarksburg, MA, and he is concerned that the public will be shut out from public lands. “This is a precedent they are making,” said Lorusso. “I have issues with a multinational company coming in and utilizing our public land. I came into this as a proponent of the wind project but something has to be done. When you go beneath the surface things are different than they appear,” said Lorusso.
David Marchegiani, of Readsboro, said the town has lost thousands of jobs with the closing of local factories and Yankee Rowe. He supports the wind project because it would give the town some much needed revenue. “We need the money,” said Marchegiani.
John Whitman, of Readsboro, is the town’s representative to the Windham Regional Commission. Whitman has been following the Deerfield Wind Project since the beginning and he agrees with Lorusso about the significance of the GMNF’s decision. “It’s because this is the first wind project on national forest land,” said Whitman. “The National Forest folks are trying to make sure everyone’s comments are heard. They know this decision will be looked at in the future elsewhere and outside Vermont.”
To submit comments on the Deerfield Wind Project send them to GMNF project coordinator Bob Bayer at 2358 Depot Street, Manchester Center, VT 05255, or by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (802) 362-2307, ext. 218. All comments must be submitted no later than March 4.
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