LOWELL – State utility regulators conducted their first-ever site visit Tuesday in conjunction with appeals over storm-water control permits for the Lowell wind project.
The three members of Vermont Public Service Board were joined by 27 others for a tour of the wind project and its 21 turbine sites. The focus is the many storm-water runoff basins, drainage areas and other features designed to limit how rain will run off the site’s roads and turbine locations during construction and operations.
The PSB has never handled appeals of storm-water permits for energy projects. In the past, the permits from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources were appealed to the Vermont Environmental Court, but the Legislature wanted to streamline the process and sent the appeals to the PSB.
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Nor would the board be looking for problems with the storm-water catch basins and drainage areas, he said.
“The board is not here to inspect the site,” he said. “We can’t really talk about the case.”
The board, he said, is here to see what the storm-water controls look like in order to better understand the arguments and testimony at appeal hearings in Montpelier over whether the controls are sufficient for such a ridgeline wind project.
The board wanted to see what vegetative buffers look like, for example,
The board and the opponents who appealed the permits and the state and GMP experts agreed to an itinerary for the site visit that some expected to last four or five hours. Some participants brought lunch.
Others lamented the fact that they did not. GMP officials loaded snacks for the tour.
The contractors are pouring concrete into the forms for the foundations of each turbine site and finishing road and turbine site work, in preparation for the arrival of the turbine parts and blades this week or next.
When one expert for the opponents asked a question about the staging area’s gravel base,
Everyone donned a hard hat, safety vest and safety glasses provided by GMP. The group boarded three vans, with one PSB member and a mix of officials from the different parties in each van.
The appeal of storm-water permits by the Lowell Mountain Group and neighboring towns of Albany and Craftsbury include challenges over the type of controls being used and whether they are sufficient for the type of runoff that could occur.
ANR officials in written testimony have defended the controls required by ANR permits.
GMP contractors had failed to build controls fast enough to keep up with the road construction on site.
Since then, the work has met ANR approval, even after heavy rains caused major flooding in Lowell on May 29.