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Saugus board approves temporary meteorological tower

SAUGUS – The Saugus Conservation Commission voted to approve a 164-foot meteorological tower as part of an $85,000 feasibility grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to explore the possibility of installing up to three wind turbines off of Route 107.

The tower will go up for one year to collect wind data and will sit on state-owned land off of 107 on the old Route 95 extension road bed, which is controlled by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“It’s going to require clearing approximately three quarters of an acre to put up the tower,” said Andrew Poynt, a wetland scientist with consulting and engineering firm CDM. “There’s no concrete, it’s going up and will lock in with guide wires. It’s just temporary impact and within 12 months it will be removed.”

Poynt said a few shrubs and saplings will have to be removed, but project manager Dan Guglielmi said there will be little impact to the area.

“There really is minimal disturbance,” said Guglielmi.

Conservation Commission Chair Albert Trifone said he was concerned about possibly interfering with other projects in the area and creating confusion among the various state departments.

“Are all the other agencies going to be informed of what your intents are?” asked Trifone.

Poynt assured the commission that both the DCR and the Department of Environmental Protection were both notified.

Once CDM obtains building permits from the state, the tower will be put in place for a year. But Guglielmi said this doesn’t necessarily mean the wind turbine project will proceed.

“Even if it is determined that it is feasible, then it comes down to cost,” said Guglielmi. “A lot of projects die after that. Before they would go for a design and construction grant, we would have to do a public outreach program.”

There are 40 wind turbines installed throughout Massachusetts, including Chelsea, Medford, Newburyport, Dorchester and Ipswich and in May, the town of Hancock opened the first full wind farm in the commonwealth with 10 turbines.

CDM would have to go through a full public hearing process before any turbines could be built.

“It’s only a study right now,” said Trifone. “It’s an old road bed, they’re not even going into the wetlands.”