May 19, 2011
Press releases, Vermont

Sheffield neighbors file evidence of stormwater runoff failures at First Wind site

Energize Vermont, 18 May 2011

Wednesday afternoon neighbors of First Wind’s Sheffield wind project filed additional evidence with the Vermont Supreme Court to support their request to halt construction while the Court considers their appeal of the stormwater permit. Recent photographs of the site show that inadequate stormwater runoff protection has done irreparable harm at the project site and that the Best Management Practices (BMPs) required by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) permit have not protected the site’s five headwater streams.

Project neighbor Rob Pforzheimer, commenting on the status of the site, said, “The site is a mess. Not only are they out of compliance with the permit, but the permit isn’t working anyway. The photos of the site make it very clear that First Wind and ANR’s assurances that the BMPs would work were wrong. The permit has completely failed to protect these important headwater streams. The Court should rule in favor of the Motion to Stay immediately before more harm is done at the site.”

In an affidavit filed supporting the request, hydrologist Andrews Torizzo stated, “The site is not properly stabilized and disturbed soils are exposed to mobilization by precipitation and snowmelt.”

The lack of stabilization at the site can be seen in the photographs. Photos demonstrate that the inappropriate placement of control devices such as hay bales and silt fences has allowed sediment to travel unimpeded into area streams (photos 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 6A). Other photographs show that necessary sediment basins have not been installed properly, and therefore sediment is allowed to run off the site unchecked. (photos 7A).

The ANR permit has allowed First Wind to follow BMPs, but did not apply the requirements of the Vermont Water Quality Standards which require pre-construction baseline monitoring, and monitoring during construction activity to ensure that the water is not degraded from sediment in the stormwater runoff reaching the streams. Further complicating the efforts to protect the streams is ANR’s recent assertion that the activities on the portion of the site that are releasing the most sediment is considered logging, which allows for an even lower level of protection called Acceptable Management Practices (AMPs). The neighbors want construction to cease until the Supreme Court decides whether to revoke the permit that was upheld by the Environmental Court. First Wind recently restarted construction at the site after a pause during the winter.

Neighbor and fisheries biologist Paul Brouha described the impacts of the erosion on habitat in a filing to the Court that accompanied the photos. Brouha said, “As this sediment moves downstream its biological effect is to entomb emerging brook trout eggs or emerging alevins, to smother these organisms in the gravels as the flow of oxygenated water through the gravels is reduced, and to block the emergence of mayflies and other invertebrates that serve as fish food. Further, the sediment will fill in pools and reduce the available trout cover in them. “

Lawyer for the Appellants Stephanie Kaplan expressed hope the new evidence would help the Court understand their urgency. She said, “We believe these photographs demonstrate convincingly what is at stake by allowing First Wind to continue construction with an inadequate permit. The damage done is already permanent and substantial, but the spring construction season has just barely started. Work at the site must be stopped before further runoff can harm the natural resources on the site.”

Energize Vermont was created to educate and advocate for establishing renewable energy solutions that are in harmony with the irreplaceable character of Vermont, and that contribute to the well-being of all her people. This mission is achieved by researching, collecting, and analyzing information from all sources; and disseminating it to the public, community leaders, legislators, media, and regulators for the purpose of ensuring informed decisions for long term stewardship of our communities.


Lukas B. Snelling (802) 778-0660



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