Opponents of the Lowell wind project were asking Friday who they can trust to make sure that ridge line work doesn’t violate state and federal laws.
Green Mountain Power, which wants to erect 21 turbines on the Lowell ridge line, sent a letter to state regulators Thursday advising that surveyors cut 10 mature trees during pre-construction surveying on the ridge line without authority from the state or GMP.
And the landowner who has land destined for a large conservation area to make up for the ridge line project allowed work on his land in the past several months that filled the edge of a wetland and created ditches on logging roads that might not meet state logging practices or handle heavy rains, GMP said.
GMP ordered the surveying company to stop the work and leave the site. And the landowner, Trip Wileman, agreed to stop all logging on the property while GMP and the Agency of Natural Resources investigate, GMP officials said.
GMP and ANR officials discovered the two problems Monday while doing a pre-construction walk on the ridge line.
ANR is investigating, ANR Secretary Deborah Markowitz said Friday afternoon.
Wind opponents have repeatedly complained that they didn’t think the state would be able to oversee the project.
“The project hasn’t even started yet and there are already management issues,” said Luke Snelling of Energize Vermont, speaking on behalf of the Lowell Mountain Group and other local opponents.
“There needs to be a complete accounting for the impacts this will have on the area’s wetlands and streams. ANR must do a complete investigation, and ensure remediation is complete before they even consider issuing permits for the project,” Snelling said in a statement Friday. “This is the type of act that ANR is supposed to prevent. GMP can try to push these mistakes off on to their business partners, but the reality is the buck stops with them. We can no longer allow GMP to do whatever they want without any repercussions.
“I also point out that this brings into question the ability to do accurate baseline water quality testing and baseline water quality testing is the only way we will know if this massive construction project is impacting water quality,” he said.
“These are the very issues that are being litigated in the Sheffield case at the [Vermont] Supreme Court. Why are we allowing wind developers to continue to ignore common sense and our policies on storm water?” Snelling asked.
First Wind is erecting 16 wind turbines in Sheffield.
Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment said the state is more aggressive with the owner of Vermont Yankee than with wind developers.
“Vermonters have earned their skepticism of the regulatory scheme for large wind development. While elected officials and regulators are holding Entergy’s feet to the fire, we see nothing similar occurring where wind development is occurring,” Smith said.
“These activities compromise the ability of interested parties to conduct baseline water quality monitoring, which should be required of the applicant by Vermont’s ANR. Without baseline water quality monitoring there is no way to determine the impact of inappropriate storm water runoff during construction on the area’s streams and wetlands,” Smith said.
GMP said the trees were cut along the site where the ridge line crane load would be located once construction begins.
The utility has several hurdles to pass before beginning construction, including several permits and conditions of the PSB.
And GMP, like many throughout northern Vermont, is waiting to see how Vermont Electric Cooperative members will vote on a power line upgrade that will benefit VEC and carry electricity from the Lowell wind project.
Opponents hope that a no vote on the VEC power line upgrade will kill the Lowell wind project.
Anyone in the VEC service area who still wants to vote must hand-deliver their mailed ballot to the special meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the co-op’s Johnson headquarters. Polls close at 6:30 p.m.
GMP says it has other options. However, those options all would require applying to the PSB for approval, which can be a time-consuming process.
And GMP needs to begin building soon in order to earn federal tax credits. If the turbines are not spinning by the end of 2012, the utility could lose out on millions of dollars.
Opponents think GMP won’t build the project if the construction schedule is in doubt.
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