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Turbine proposal prompts call for bird study

SHELBURNE – The Massachusetts Audubon Society, which owns the High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary near the site of a proposed wind farm, has urged the town Zoning Board of Appeals to require preconstruction bird and bat studies, to evaluate the potential impact that the eight, 469-foot-tall windmills would have on wildlife if constructed on Mount Massaemet.

In a letter to the board, dated Nov. 8, John J. Clarke, director of Audubon public policy and government relations, asks the board to let Audubon, which owns abutting land to the proposed wind farm, to “more fully review and comment on the project as it is detailed beyond the conceptual stage, when the required engineering drawings and specifications are available.”

According to Clarke, the Audubon Society reviewed the preliminary plans with Frederick D. Field, a former Shelburne resident and current landowner who has proposed the commercial wind farm to be constructed on five adjacent properties in the Patten District in Shelburne Center.

Field is seeking a special permit from the ZBA to build the facility, which he says could power the equivalent of 6,000 homes and increase tax revenues to the town.

Audubon has asked that the ZBA equire the following information from Field:

◆ Construction plans, signed and stamped by a registered engineer, for access roads, transmission lines, turbine pads and additional equipment.

◆ Delineation of all wetlands within 100 feet, and within 200 feet for rivers, of any proposed work. They also want a “determination of applicability” from the town’s Conservation Commission, confirming that no wetland resource areas will be impacted.

◆ A determination from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program saying whether any of the work is in “priority habitat” for state-listed rare species and subject to the state’s Endangered Species Act.

◆ Financial surety for equipment removal and site restoration following either completion of the project or abandonment.

Besides the pre-construction bird and bat studies, the Audubon Society is requesting post-construction studies, to document any impacts on nature and to modify operations accordingly.

“Given the proposed project location, the wind energy project should be evaluated by Shelburne for any fragmentation effects the access roads and turbines may have on wildlife habitat and impacts the project may have to the conservation and recreational values of protected lands, including (High Ledges) and the Shelburne State Forest …” the letter says.

The ZBA hearing for the wind farm’s special permit application begins tonight at 7 p.m., in the upstairs auditorium in Memorial Hall on Bridge Street.