Green Mountain Power has contracted with three different sheriff’s departments to provide security and to enforce a blast safety zone at and near the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell.
Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin said that GMP is paying $55.53 an hour for each deputy and his or her cruiser. That’s the rate that Vermont State Police charge, Martin said.
The Orleans County department does not have enough deputies to provide the coverage needed at the wind site, especially to enforce the court order that requires everyone to leave a blasting safety zone 1,000 feet from each blast area, Martin said.
“It’s a combined effort. Franklin and Lamoille are assisting us,” Martin said.
The sheriff’s department has had deputies at the wind site since Nov. 4.
Beginning Nov. 4, and for a week after that, VSP was the lead agency involved, but state police stepped back to let the Orleans County sheriff run the operation.
Deputies have also worked on the weekend to keep the curious off the wind project property owned by Lowell landowner Trip Wileman, under lease by GMP.
Martin said state police would step back in if he requests it.
The contract requires deputies to be on the site before each blast. The court order is a preliminary injunction from Orleans Superior Court Judge Martin Maley, which requires that law enforcement officers present the order to anyone in the safety zone when a warning whistle is blown and for a two-hour window around the blasting time. Anyone who does not move out of the zone or goes back in would be arrested.
Protesters have been standing witness to the blasting on the ridgeline as part of the construction of the crane path and pads for 21 industrial-grade turbines.
On Wednesday, two students from Sterling College in Craftsbury Common were arrested and cited into court on charges of criminal contempt of court. Deputies said they were in the blast safety zone despite the court order. Protesters said the students did not intend to be arrested and blamed deputies for not carrying out the court order properly.
Martin said the contract with GMP runs right through Dec. 2, when the preliminary injunction issued by Maley expires.
GMP and neighboring Lowell landowners Don and Shirley Nelson are in court with dueling lawsuits about the blasting. The judge is expected to issue more rulings on the battle, including whether to extend the preliminary injunction.
Blasting has continued on weekdays on the ridgeline. Recently, blasting has occurred almost every hour, said GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure.
The contractors for GMP are leveling the future crane path and also the pad sites for the 459-foot-tall wind turbines. The 35-foot-wide path has to be able to carry the crane sections, which are assembled at the sites, as well as the turbine sections.
Part of the court battle is about a section of Wileman’s property that the Nelsons say is theirs.
The GMP contractors will be working in that section, where the sites for turbines six and seven would be located, Schnure said.
The contractors have nearly completed the access road from Route 100 to the ridgeline, with some storm-water runoff controls still being installed along the way, Schnure said.
The access road reaches the ridgeline right at the turbine seven site.
Work is under way along the crane path toward the six turbine sites northeast of the access road and also southwest on the ridgeline to where turbine sites for eight through 21 would be located.
“On the crane path we have the locations for turbines six, seven and nine nearly laid out and they are being prepared for foundations,” Schnure said.
“We are building the crane path out to the north to turbine four with clearing complete all the way to turbine one.
“Going south, we are blasting and building the crane path out to turbine nine with clearing well to the south to turbine fourteen,” she said.
“Blasting has begun out to turbine ten.”