CONCORD – The N.H. Site Evaluation Committee has approved Granite Reliable Power’s motion to allow it to permanently widen sections of the access road to its wind turbines on Mount Kelsey.
The SEC held a formal adjudicatory hearing on Nov. 24 and after deliberating, voted 10 to 1 to amend GRP’s Certificate of Site and Facility to allow the turbine roads to be reconstructed to a width of 16 feet. Under the original High Elevation Restoration Plan, after the 33-turbine wind farm was constructed, GRP was required to reduce the road width to 12 feet. A revised High Elevation Restoration Plan was approved by the SEC requiring GRP to provide additional monitoring and reporting conditions.
The 293-page transcript of the adjudicatory hearing was just released last week. A written decision is expected to be released soon.
The sole vote against granting the motion was Meredith Hatfield, director of the Office of Energy and Planning. Hatfield said she felt the two-year monitoring requirement for seedlings was not sufficient. The plan requires GRP to achieve a 75 percent survival rate for seedlings it plants as part of the mitigation. Given the hash environment, Hatfield said she did not think two years was enough time.
GRP filed its motion last March, reporting that one of the turbines on Mount Kelsey needed maintenance and the repair required use of a crane. The road had to be widened and GRP said it believes there may be similar maintenance issues. Rather then repeatedly tearing up and re-vegetating the road, GRP asked it be allowed to keep the road width at 16 feet. In exchange, GRP said it would re-vegetate gravel surfaces at turbine pad area and other locations that would provide similar or greater benefits.
GRP said both the N.H. Fish and Game Department and the Appalachian Mountain Club, signers to the original mitigation settlement, agreed to the modified plan.
But the Counsel for the Public, represented by Senior Assistant N.H. Attorney General Peter Roth,
objected to the request and the Wind Action Group and Coos County Commissioner Rick Samson filed as interveners.
Dr. C. William Kilpatrick, a University of Vermont biology professor hired as an expert by Roth, testified said the wind project “is having a significant adverse impact upon the natural environmental on Mt. Kelsey.” Specifically, he said the populations of American martens and Bicknell’s thrush had been hurt by the project.
Under questioning by GRP Attorney Harold Pachios, Kilpatrick said he agreed with a statement made by Roth that the mitigation and restoration plans were a “farce”.
Kilpatrick noted that both Fish and Game and the AMC had originally opposed the wind farm before reaching a mitigation settlement agreement.
In his closing remarks, Pachios said the company offered what it felt was a practical and simple solution and found itself engaged in a nine month process. He said the request had turned into an opportunity for opponents of wind power and the project to re-litigate its certificate of approval and impose additional conditions.
He said if there were going to be a lot of additional conditions, GRP wanted the ability to withdraw its motion and operate under the 2009 agreement.
A copy of the transcript is available at http://www.nhsec.nh.gov/projects/2014-03.
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