Massive trucks carrying wind turbine components will be allowed to take Bourne town roads to deliver equipment to a proposed wind farm in Plymouth. The Bourne Board of Selectmen Wednesday night, September 30, narrowly approved a license to Future Generation Wind and Consolidated Edison Solutions for use of Main Street and Head of the Bay Road in Buzzards Bay. The vote was 3 in favor, 2 against.
Selectmen Peter J. Meier and Michael A. Blanton voted against approval of the license. Mr. Meier sought to make the selectmen’s approval contingent on approval of the project by other town boards and committees, including the Bourne Board of Health and the Bourne Planning Board. Other board members disagreed.
Board member Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis said that making license approval dependent upon the actions of another board would be illegal and leave selectmen open to being sued by the applicant.
Mr. Blanton sided with Mr. Meier, saying that the board of selectmen frequently grants licenses based on input from other town departments. He added that he was not convinced that the applicants provided enough safeguards to protect residents whose homes and property might suffer property damage caused by the over-sized vehicles.
“I have misgivings,” he said.
Project coordinators have previously said that the heaviest vehicles would be those carrying one of the bases for a turbine. The gross weight of that vehicle would be 280,000 pounds, with a length of 178 feet and a width of approximately 16 feet. Jonathan W. Fitch, attorney for the applicants, assured the board that engineering calculations have been made and measurements taken to ensure the roads and the tree canopy on Head of the Bay Road, which is designated a scenic road, will not be damaged.
Bourne Department of Public Works superintendent George M. Sala told selectmen he is confident of the engineering calculations submitted by the applicants showing that town roads can withstand the weight of the vehicles. Mr. Sala added that, in his role as town tree warden, he would partner with a qualified arborist to ensure no harm to the tree canopy.
A total of 36 vehicles will be used to transport the individual parts for four wind turbines to Keith A. Mann’s cranberry farm off Head of the Bay Road in Plymouth. Only 24 will come by way of Wareham, down Main Street, around Belmont Circle and up Head of the Bay Road. The remaining vehicles, which will carry the turbines’ blades will come by way of Route 25.
Deliveries will be made Monday through Thursday, between the hours of midnight and 5 AM.
A 15-item order of conditions was compiled by board chairman Stephen F. Mealy and Bourne town counsel Robert S. Troy prior to Wednesday’s meeting. The conditions cover, in part, a bond amount, efforts the applicant will take to protect town roads, inspections by town officials of roads, sewer lines and drainage pipes, and police and fire details during delivery times. A 16th condition was added Wednesday night, requiring the applicant to establish a contact person and a protocol for filing a damage complaint.
The order stipulates that there is never to be more than one vehicle on Head of the Bay Road at any one time. It includes a $1 million bond, half of which will be returned upon completion of construction of the turbines, which is expected to be December 1, 2015. The remainder of the bond will be returned by September 1, 2016, and only after satisfactory inspections of the roads and sewers by town officials.
William Combs, logistics coordinator for Gamesa, the company responsible for transportation of the turbines, said that deliveries are expected to begin October 19. Mr. Combs said that he expects delivery of all the components to take about two and a half to three weeks.
An overflow crowd of residents filled the conference room at the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center for the nearly three discussions and debate of the controversial request. Questions were raised as to the impact on residents, should one of the vehicles break down on Head of the Bay Road and what procedure the applicants had in place for people filing a damage complaint.
John T. McMahon of Morning Mist Lane in Buzzards Bay said he wanted to avoid being accused of fraud and asked how he needs to show proof that damage was, in fact, done by the transport vehicles.
“Do I have to videotape every room in my house?” Mr. McMahon said.
Mr. Fitch, representing the applicants, said that a contact person would be made available and a complaint protocol would be in place before construction of the turbines is completed. Mr. Fitch also noted that a $1,000 fine would be imposed on the company for every time one of the applicant’s delivery vehicles is caught on a town road past 5 AM.
Some residents expressed concern that a vehicle broken down on Head of the Bay Road could severely impact residents well past 5 AM. People questioned whether the $1,000 per incident fine was enough of an incentive for the company to act expediently in removing the problem vehicle.
Bourne Police Chief Dennis R. Woodside told selectmen that there are local towing companies capable of moving over-sized vehicles such as those delivering the turbine equipment. Chief Woodside also mentioned that, if the applicants were to purposely violate any part of the order of conditions, the board of selectmen has the authority to revoke their license.
“I would come to you immediately and want you to revoke the permit. It would cost them a lot more expense than any time limit you can put on this,” he said.
The wind farm project itself still faces a challenge from the Bourne Board of Health, which has said the applicants need to obtain a variance to move forward. Mr. Fitch has argued that the Town of Bourne has no jurisdiction over a project located in Plymouth. The health board countered that because shadow flicker from the turbines’ blades would fall over the town line and affect Bourne residents, the project is technically located in Bourne and subject to Bourne regulations.
The board of health has established its own set of regulations governing wind turbines. Those regulations recognize shadow flicker as a nuisance and concur that excessive noise from the turbines can cause “emotional stress, fatigue, high blood pressure and, at high levels, hearing loss.”
The board of health takes up the issue again at its meeting on Wednesday, October 14.