LOWELL – The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources issued a stop-work order this week on construction of the Lowell wind project because of possible environmental violations.
ANR Secretary Deborah Markowitz confirmed Friday that the order has been issued for what an inspector determined was improper handling of gravel during early stages of the project by Green Mountain Power.
Markowitz said the problem appeared to be routine. She said stop-work orders aren’t uncommon.
GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said Friday that the problems with storm-water runoff controls developed last weekend during the latest bout of very heavy rains in the region.
On Monday, GMP overseers of construction of the access road to the Lowell ridge line noticed that the storm-water runoff controls weren’t being effective to stop storm water, Schnure said.
GMP has to follow rigid rules for storm-water runoff, she said. GMP officials contacted ANR Tuesday about the problem, she said.
ANR officials inspected the site and on Wednesday issued the stop-work order, she said.
GMP crews had already begun the work needed to stop runoff from the site, she said.
Improving the storm-water runoff controls will be done before ANR allows the construction to continue.
GMP’s contractors have been working on the access road and staging area off Route 100 in Lowell since early September, a month later than GMP had hoped. Roughly 75 percent of the access road had been cleared as of early this week, GMP officials said.
Work crews had hoped to reach the ridge line by the end of the week, but that work had been stopped by the ANR order.
Sometime this month, once the stop-work order is lifted, GMP expects crews to begin work on the ridge line crane path. It’s next to that path that protesters are camping on abutting property – hoping to stop the blasting.
The campers are on land owned by Don and Shirley Nelson, who have fought the idea of wind turbines on the mountain for years. The Nelson land abuts the wind project property owned by Trip Wileman, who is leasing the land to GMP.
The Chronicle reported this week that the campers are mostly students from Sterling College in Craftsbury and others living nearby. They have a primitive tent camp set up and are taking turns manning the camp that is right next to the orange-taped line for the crane path.
The camp in woods near the ridge line is within the blast zone of the wind project.
The $156 million project still needs some permits and needs to meet some conditions before final approval from the regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board.
Opponents, including neighbors and the towns of Albany and Craftsbury, continue to appeal the project.
GMP wants to have the turbines up and running before the end of next year to secure millions of dollars in federal tax credits to lower the price of the electricity from the project for customers.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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