A report on the environmental impact of the Sheffield Wind Project has been released by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and is being hailed by Massachusetts-based First Wind, which owns the wind farm.
The report’s findings involve samplings from the site pre-construction in the fall of 2010 through the first year of post-construction taken by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation in 2011.
According to the three-page memorandum issued by Richard Langdon, an environmental scientist with DEC’s Biomonitoring and Aquatic Studies Section, pre-construction fish communities were sampled in Clark Brook in 2010, the day the construction began, and in streams draining the project area in 2011, after construction.
Samples were taken in 2006 and 2009 as well, which “can be assumed to represent pre-construction data and therefore act as a control with which subsequent samples may be compared.”
Noting Tropic Storm Irene’s impact, Langdon states that four of the five stream reaches sampled in the fall of 2011 maintained an excellent to very good level of biological integrity of the macroinvertebrate community. The streams showed little to no change in most of the eight primary biometrics during the three to four years sampled.
Langdon also said, “The two Annis Brook sites showed very low density in 2011 indicating that this stream was more affected by the 2011 higher flows than the other four streams. While the density did not meet Class B2-3 aquatic life support, all other metrics fell into the excellent range for both sites. Density is expected to rebound in 2012, absent any similarly dramatic runoff events.”
In the fish community summary, Langdon stated the fish assemblage data from the three streams sampled in both 2010 and 2011 generally indicate that there were no reductions in fish densities or other indicators of biological integrity during the first year of construction.
The data for 2011 was collected in September 2011, about a month before the wind farm began operating.
According to Langdon’s report, “DEC intends to continue biological sampling of these sites for at least another year. All sites that will be sampled for fish will consist of at least two electrofishing passes so that population estimates with confidence can be determined.”
The streams from which data was gathered and on which the findings of the report were based include, in addition to Annis Brook, Nation Brook Tributary 3, Calendar Brook, Clark Brook and its tributary 22.
In a news release sent by First Wind’s spokesman John Lamontagne Tuesday, the firm said that the report shows the “Sheffield Wind project construction had no adverse impact on nearby streams.”
The water quality studies, according to Lamontagne’s press release, “found that construction of the Sheffield Wind Project had no adverse impact to the water quality and aquatic life of cold-water streams near the project.”
“When we built the Sheffield wind project, we took extra care to ensure that important water resources were protected,” said Josh Bagnato, First Wind’s environmental permitting and compliance manager. “These results are particularly important as concerns had been raised that surface water quality could be degraded as a result of wind farm construction. These results show that with careful construction and monitoring of natural resources, wind projects can be built in a way that protects natural resources while delivering clean energy with no harmful emissions.”
The Sheffield Wind project consists of 16 Clipper Liberty 2.5 MW turbines, and generates enough power for about 15,000 homes in Vermont.
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