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Albany, Craftsbury selectmen oppose Lowell Wind  

Credit:  Jennifer Hersey Cleveland, Staff Writer, The Caledonian Record, caledonianrecord.com 23 March 2011 ~~

The Albany and Craftsbury boards of selectmen announced their formal opposition to the Kingdom Community Wind Project Monday.

Letters from both boards and the Craftsbury Conservation Commission, appointed by selectmen, say that the adverse impacts of the project do not outweigh the potential benefits.

Kingdom Community Wind and partners GMP and Vermont Electric Co-op hope to erect 21 410-foot turbines on the Lowell Mountain ridge line.

The PSB will now deliberate about whether or not it will extend a certificate of public good for the project.

Dottie Schnure, Green Mountain Power communications director, says opposition to projects is part of the Public Service Board process. She said the issues brought up in the letters were fully vetted in recent PSB hearings on the issue.

“I can’t see where there was going to be adverse impacts for other towns,” said Richard Pion, Lowell Board of Selectmen chairman.

According to landowner Trip Wileman, who was primarily responsible for getting the project started, “The towns selected volunteers who opposed the project to represent them in the 248 permitting process, and they in turn worked very closely with the Ridge Protectors and other groups dedicated to keeping wind out of Vermont. I think it is unfortunate, as the select boards’ expressed fears are not supported by the facts.”

Seventy-five percent of Lowell voters support the project, Pion said. “I think very few people have changed their minds.”

The letter from Albany Selectmen Carl Chaffee, Christopher Jacobs and Francis Coulter dated March 16 states the developers have failed to address the potential noise from the project and its effect on human health, visual and audible aesthetic impacts, and the effect construction, blasting and storm water management will have on emergency services.

The selectmen said they are concerned that residents won’t be able to sleep with the level of noise from the turbines.

“Residents should be able to enjoy their property as they have for generations, including being able to sleep outdoors or in a tent,” the letter states.

The aesthetic impacts will be “shocking and offensive,” the letter states, amounting to an “undue, adverse impact,” language commonly used in Act 250 proceedings.

The letter brings up Albany’s view tax, saying that one Orleans County resident is challenging a property valuation because of the sight of a much smaller turbine. The town should not be burdened with legal fees to fight tax bill challenges, the letter states.

Water for firefighting in Albany village comes from Shatney Brook, the letter states, and selectmen are concerned that construction will disrupt water flow to the brook. The issue has not been studied or discussed by developers, who the selectmen said have suggested no means of mitigating the potential impact.

Pion said Albany voters declined to oppose the project or spend any money opposing it about a year ago. He said he wasn’t sure why selectmen decided to come out in opposition. Perhaps the decision was based on listening to a “small group that is very vocal,” he said.

According to Mike Nelson, the volunteer designee on the project for Albany selectmen, “After nearly a year of study it is clear to the board that the proposed project poses significant risks to the health of our citizens and their overall quality of life.”

Craftsbury Selectmen Bruce Urie, James Jones and Susan Houston said they based their opposition on the findings of the conservation commission, which presented their unanimous opinion in a letter dated March 14.

The project would “significantly alter a 450-million-year-old iconic ridge line visible throughout Orleans County,” the letter states.

It would alter critical wildlife habitat and create potentially disastrous unintended consequences to water flows, the letter states, bringing with it an increased risk of flooding downstream.

The letter disagrees with developers’ claims that the project would provide low-cost, stable, low-emission, reliable electricity.

“The amount of electricity predicted from the proposed project is negligible,” the letter states. The amount of carbon dioxide displaced will provide no effective contribution to Vermont’s climate change efforts, it states.

According to Steve Wright of the commission, “Outdated state energy policy is placing towns in conflict with each other. After a year of work and study we believe it is time to confront the fact that this project will likely have a negative effect on our community.”

Energize Vermont opposes the project, saying it is too large for the state and would have too extreme an environmental impact.

According to communications director Lukas B. Snelling, “The Lowell Mountains ridge line provides some of the most serene, beautiful, and important habitats for both wildlife and humans this state has to offer. We are pleased the towns have chosen to oppose this project in an effort to respect this vast natural resource.”

Schnure said GMP disagrees with many of the statements in the letters. The PSB will weigh the evidence and make a decision based on what is in the public’s best interests, she said.

“I am confident that the Public Service Board will weigh all the evidence, and conclude that the neighboring town’s interests will be protected,” Wileman said.

Pion testified at the PSB hearings and said he didn’t hear anything that made him concerned about the project’s impact on his town.

People just accept the development of Jay Peak, he said, and without financial benefit. “In six months, people will probably like the sight of them,” he said. “I have no problem with looking at them.”

Source:  Jennifer Hersey Cleveland, Staff Writer, The Caledonian Record, caledonianrecord.com 23 March 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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