You can learn a lot by attending select board meetings in your town. The Pittsford Select Board meeting May 2 was a fascinating example of this. Several people were there to continue to observe and make comments on discussion and decision-making regarding the proposed industrial wind development on Grandpa’s Knob/Pittsford Ridge. Also on the agenda for this meeting was a presentation regarding the proposed removal of the historic Kendric Pond Dam. This presentation was given by Ethan Swift of the Agency of Natural Resources and Roy Schiff, water resource engineer with Malone and McBroom.
The presentation about the proposed removal of this dam was very educational. This is a dam on Sugarwood Brook, which feeds into the Furnace Brook, which is important trout habitat. It is also an historic site for the town of Pittsford, as there is a long history to the dam and the mill that operated at the dam. The dam is in poor condition and has some structural problems, so the proposal has been to remove the dam in a controlled way before a flood destroys the dam and damages areas downstream in the process.
The conversation was preceded by a comment by the town manager regarding when they had first talked about this project and he thought they could just go in there with jack hammers and remove the dam. But he has since learned that plan was very naive. One of the issues with removal of the dam is that there is a huge amount of sediment behind the dam, which if released could damage the trout habitat downstream. Prior to removal of the dam, the town has asked for this in-depth study of the consequences, and ANR is providing guidance as to how this project could be done in the most environmentally responsible way and in a way which will minimize any adverse impacts of the project. The discussion that followed was also very enlightening. A neighbor to this dam was in attendance and was welcomed by the town manager when she made comments and asked questions about how this might affect her, as the dam is “in her back yard.”
My comment to the board, and my commentary here is as follows: First, thank you to the presenters for a fascinating and educational presentation. This is how it should be done. Before embarking on any projects that may impact the environment and the people who live there, careful consideration and detailed study should take place. Even when we undertake a project to restore what was altered by humans, we need to consider all of the consequences. My comment concluded with a question as to why we aren’t commissioning studies and devoting equal critical thought to the wind project.
The Grandpa’s Knob/Pittsford Ridge wind project is in the back yard of the four towns that are slated to “host” this project. This is a project of industrial scale that we have never seen on ridgelines in Vermont. The Agency of Natural Resources has stated in a letter dated April 24, 2012, that the Grandpa’s Knob Wind Project would have “an undue adverse effect on this rare and irreplaceable natural area.” Yet Reunion Power officials are stating that the ANR has not been specific in their objections, that the ANR has not proven that any specific species would be harmed, and Reunion is undertaking its own studies. Why would we place more validity on studies paid for by the corporation with a vested monetary interest than we would place on our own ANR?
There should be no double standards for industrial wind development. If ANR has stated that this project will cause irreparable harm to a wildlife corridor and habitat, that should be end of the conversation. This would be the case for any other residential, recreational or commercial enterprise that is proposed in Vermont. Listen to the ANR. Ridges are not renewable.
Lisa Wright Garcia is a resident of Florence.