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Northeast Kingdom: ANR cites concerns over possible wind project  

Credit:  Amy Ash Nixon, Staff Writer | The Orleans Record | orleanscountyrecord.com 23 May 2012 ~~

NEWARK – Environmental concerns around the sites in Brighton and Ferdinand where a New Hampshire wind project developer is seeking to place meteorological towers have the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources suggesting a limit on when the sites can be disturbed.

In a report from the ANR’s Office of Planning and Legal Affairs dated May 11 regarding the proposal by Eolian Renewable Energy LLC to site four MET towers, Donald J. Einhorn, an environmental litigation attorney for the agency, noted sensitive conditions for the proposed towers and has suggested conditions for a Certificate of Public Good, which the firm is seeking from the Vermont Public Service Board to erect the towers.

At Hawk Rock, where one of the towers is proposed among the three communities, Einhorn is suggesting that Eolian, whose name for this proposed project is Seneca Mountain Wind, “be required to utilize the less intrusive type tower,” should a MET tower be permitted there.

“Construction and maintenance activities, with the exception of emergency maintenance, shall be prohibited during the black bear fall feeding season,” stated Einhorn “September 1 through November 30, at the Hawk Rock MET site.”

Additionally, pertaining to the Hawk Rock site, Einhorn stated in his proposed conditions that the firm “annually provide a report, by Dec. 2, to the ANR and the (Public Service) Board, documenting the number of entries into the Hawk Rock MET site area between September 1 and November 30, and explaining the basis for each entry.” Another condition deals with the peregrine falcon nesting season, Feb. 15 through July 31, at the Hawk Rock MET Site.

Other conditions being requested the ANR attorney and suggested to the Public Service Board, include a request to protect migratory birds by prohibiting lighting on the towers.

Seneca Mountain Wind filed with the Public Service Board a petition for four MET towers in the three towns on April 12; the MET towers are a precursor for a potential wind project in the region. The ANR is not seeking a hearing at this time in conjunction with the company’s request for a CPG for the MET towers.

Of the proposed MET site in Brighton, the ANR states that a shallow emergent marsh wetland area which is a significant source of food for black bear in the spring feeding season exists. The attorney recommends that construction and maintenance, except for emergencies, be kept away from the Brighton site as well, from May 1 through June 30 and that the number of entries to the site be restricted during that time.

At the Bull Mountain MET site proposed as part of the tower siting, there also has been documented bear activity as close as 170 feet from the MET site, the ANR report notes, again saying that construction and maintenance activities from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30 be limited at this site. There were no suggested conditions attached to the Seneca Mountain MET tower site.

Of Hawk Rock, the Newark site, the state comments note that “This site requires clearing of an existing forest and is located in the vicinity of several significant wildlife habitat areas.”

Seneca Mountain Wind will be in Newark tonight at 6 at the Newark Street School for an open house. A protest is planned outside starting at 5:30 p.m. The company will offer an open house Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. in Brighton at the Town Hall.

The firm’s CEO, Jack Kenworthy, said, “The purpose of the open houses is to allow residents in the area to come learn about the project, including the MET towers, the process of developing a wind farm in Vermont and about wind energy generally, in an informal way by talking to members of Seneca Mountain Wind’s project team.”

In an attachment letter to the conditions for the CPG issued May 11 by the Agency of Natural Resources, Billy Coster, a senior planner and policy analyst with the ANR, wrote to Jack Kenworthy, chief executive officer of Eolian Rewewable Energy stating there are “immediate concerns” for the agency. The letter notes that the area is rich in high elevation streams and wetlands, and those above 2,500 feet in elevation “are considered class A, high quality resources which, if impacted by the project, may be difficult to permit.” The study area also includes at least two bogs.

“The main study area is located within an 116,845-acre habitat block, which is the second largest in Vermont and ranks third of the state’s 4,055 habitat blocks for biological and physical landscape diversity value,” stated Coster in his letter to Kenworthy. “The block provides possible habitat for wide ranging species of concern such as pine martin and Canada lynx.” The land, Coster notes, is a gateway for migratory birds en route to the Nulhegan Basin.

“ANR is also concerned with the potential impact of the project on the significant public investment made in the area, such as Brighton State Park, West Mountain WMA, Bald Hill WMA, Willoughby State Forest and others, as well as publically accessible, privately owned conservation land protected with state funds,” Coster stated.

Source:  Amy Ash Nixon, Staff Writer | The Orleans Record | orleanscountyrecord.com 23 May 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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