LOWELL – The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has ordered landowner Trip Wileman to stay off conserved parcels of land associated with the Lowell wind site and to pay for restoration and remediation of the areas affected by logging work.
Wileman will also conserve an additional 170 acres for supplemental mitigation.
ANR became aware of activity on the land through a July 21 letter from Green Mountain Power to the Vermont Public Service Board saying that 10 mature trees were improperly cut by a contractor doing surveying work, that a logger put fill in part of a wetland on neighboring property destined for a large conservation area to mitigate for the wind project lands, and that roadside ditches in that area may not properly handle runoff in heavy rain.
GMP ordered all pre-construction work on the Lowell wind site ridge line to cease after notifying ANR.
And the logging company owned by Wileman, who owns most of the land to be conserved, stopped work in that area, according to the letter to the Vermont Public Service Board by Donald Rendall Jr., vice president and general counsel of GMP.
“The Agency of Natural Resources was alarmed and concerned when it discovered apparent clearing activities in the proximity of the Beaver Pond on Mitigation Parcel 3,” the report states.
During its investigation, ANR discovered work on other parcels, including a new logging road, cutting next to the road, and installation of culverts, water bars and ditches.
The logging road work occurred on two parcels of land that are destined to be conserved as part of hundreds of acres set aside in an agreement between GMP and ANR. The work was done in the past couple of months, Rendall wrote.
The logging work is not related to the wind project, he said.
Friday’s ANR report states, “Most of the maintenance work on the site is deficient and culverts, water crossing features and other erosion control features appear to be undersized or otherwise inadequate.”
GMP, with partners Vermont Electric Cooperative and VELCO, the transmission company, wants to erect 21 industrial-size turbines on the Lowell ridge line in a project called Kingdom Community Wind.
The PSB issued a certificate of public good for the project, with many conditions – including conclusion of the conservation easement agreements with ANR and storm-water runoff and water quality permits, which are still outstanding.
The ANR report states that Wileman agreed to the ANR’s recommendations, including that he stay off the mitigation parcel, except for non-motorized recreational uses, until Nov. 13, 2013.
Wileman had been permitted to haul logs across the parcel when the ground is frozen, but ANR recommended that permission be rescinded.
Easements for three mitigation parcels should be revised to eliminate Wileman’s right to build or improve new roads, the report states. Wileman will be allowed to repair and maintain roads with ANR written approval.
GMP will provide the restoration work while Wileman will foot the bill, the report states.
All material placed in Beaver Pond and the wetland buffer zone must be removed. Vegetation will be planted to return the edge of the pond to its natural state and the site will be monitored for invasive species.
The new logging road will be removed and the land restored through removal of all culverts and drainage structures, recontouring of the ground surface to pre-disturbance grades and regrowth of vegetation, which may require replanting of native trees.
All logging roads that have been expanded will be restored to the minimum width necessary – no more than 16 feet wide – and regeneration of vegetation will be allowed.
All drainage structures and culverts for skid and haul roads will be evaluated for proper construction and repaired to ANR’s standards if inadequate.
All areas where soil had been disturbed and where restoration work will occur are subject to a five-year invasive species monitoring and control plan.
“They were doing a routine site visit from the top of the ridge. They noticed trees had been cut,” GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said last week.
A GMP contractor performing pre-construction survey work on the project access road cut trees using hand tools, in violation of a directive from GMP that the contractor not cut any trees while performing such survey work, the letter from Rendall states.
“GMP’s wetlands ecologist, Jeff Nelson, verified that there has been no adverse effect on wetlands or streams as a result of this activity, and no earth disturbance has occurred,” Rendall’s letter states.
The trees are in the area where the ridge line crane path would be constructed if GMP meets enough conditions of its PSB certificate of public good to begin the ridge line path, Schnure said.
“GMP will not permit any pre-construction activity on behalf of GMP at the site until it determines that construction may commence in accordance with the certificate of public good,” Rendall wrote. “GMP will take appropriate steps to ensure that all GMP contractors and their personnel abide by this prohibition.”
These problems emerged just as GMP is continuing negotiations with ANR.
“GMP is committed to finalizing these easements as expeditiously as possible, and to include all appropriate safeguards to ensure compliance with the terms and objectives of the easements. GMP requests that the board not rule on the forms of conservation easements and the Wildlife and Habitat Management Plan for the mitigation parcels until negotiations with ANR are complete,” Rendall wrote. “GMP will also work with the landowner and ANR to ensure that any and all appropriate remediation and/or restoration activities are undertaken and completed within the conservation easement areas.”
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