RUTLAND- The Deerfield Wind Project, a proposed expansion of an existing wind generating facility in Searsburg, has been approved by Green Mount National Forest officials.
Forest supervisor Colleen Pelles Madrid released her decision to allow the construction of the wind turbines on GMNF land on Tuesday.
The original proposal called for 17 wind turbines along two ridgelines, one in Searsburg and another in Readsboro. One of several alternative plans called for 15 turbines. Under the alternate plan, the impact on important black bear territory would be reduced. In her decision, Pelles Madrid chose the 15-turbine option, which will include seven turbines on the eastern ridgeline (extending into Readsboro) and eight turbines on the western ridgeline (Searsburg).
During hearings on the project, a number of concerns were raised by local residents and advocacy groups. Pelles Madrid’s decision includes several conditions and mitigation measures intended to address some of the concerns.
Duncan Cable Television owner Cliff Duncan had expressed concern that the placement of the turbines could interfere with his satellite reception. In her decision, Pelles Madrid ordered a study of Duncan’s satellite reception be conducted. If any interference can be shown, the permit-holder will be responsible for remediating the issue, as well as any problems with television broadcast reception at residences affected by the project.
Some opponents of the project said that the turbines would have an undue adverse effect on wildlife. Pelles Madrid said she was most concerned about the impact on bats and birds, and required monitoring of bird and bat deaths attributable to the turbines. If significant deaths are found, the turbine owners will be required to develop a strategy to minimize the problem. Additionally, operation of the turbines will be curtailed during the hours of darkness between June 1 and September 30 to minimize the impact on bats.
The impact on black bears will also be monitored. In her decision, Pelles Madrid notes that much of the concern regarding bear habitat was connected to the destruction of mature beech trees – an important food source for black bears. The 15-turbine alternative, she said, was designed to minimize the removal of the trees “as much as possible.” According to the information in the decision, it will impact about 1.3% of the beech trees in the project area. “Therefore, after reviewing all the material and consulting with forest service biologists, I am satisfied that there will likely be no undue or unacceptable adverse impact to bears.”
The aesthetics of wind turbine projects have proven to be a controversial subject. Some people call them the “industrialization of pristine ridgelines,” while others call them elegant. Pelles Madrid said she is also concerned about the visual impact. But in her decision, she said the impact will be minimized by the distance of the turbines from “major viewpoints” and the site’s distance from “areas of concentrated human use.” “The area is not heavily visited by recreational users of the (GMNF) nor is it adjacent to any heavily traveled major highways or interstate roads. Open views of the facility from routes 8, 9, and 100 within a 10-mile radius of the project site will be limited due to screening provided by intervening forested hills and ridges.” Pelles Madrid also notes that there have been no complaints about the visual impact of the existing facility “for many years.”
Interested parties have 45 days after the date that the decision appears in the Rutland Herald to submit an appeal.
The decision can be found online at www.fs.usda.gov/greenmountain.
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