The Public Service Board has approved a conservation plan that will allow the Deerfield wind energy project to move forward in the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont.
The board’s order announced Friday amends a certificate of public good awarded to developer Iberdrola in 2009 to build 15 turbines on a ridge that divides Searsburg and Readsboro. The permit was granted on several conditions.
One of those was a plan to mitigate the turbines’ environmental harms.
To fulfill that condition, as described in the board’s order, Iberdrola must pay $1 million for land purchases or other conservation measures and for a study on the effects the turbines could have on bears in the area.
The ongoing bear study will cost $250,000 to $300,000 of that sum. (Iberdrola has already committed $500,000 to the habitat analysis).
The remaining $700,000 to $750,000 will be used to preserve “100 acres of remote, high-elevation, concentrated beech stands” near Stratton as long as that land is identified as acceptable bear habitat, plus 44 acres elsewhere. If the land near Stratton isn’t deemed appropriate, that amount will purchase 144 acres of suitable bear habitat elsewhere.
The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program will cover remaining costs associated with the land conservation.
Details of the arrangement will be nailed down by the end of the year, the order says.
The Agency of Natural Resources must identify an additional 44 acres (or 144 acres if the Stratton parcel’s habitat isn’t suitable) for Iberdrola to conserve. Due to the difficulty in finding private land for conservation, the Public Service Board’s order allows developers to put the money in escrow and begin work on the project before the land is identified or acquired.
Either way, developers must conserve at least 144 acres of suitable bear habitat, according to the order.
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