Mr. Gebo said that if the project destroys 100 acres of wetland, Avangrid will make another 100 acres available somewhere else. The taller towers also raised a number of environmental concerns with about 2-foot deeper footprints of about 12 to 14 feet, well below the 3-foot water table depth in the lower areas of the project site, covering a wider area by 5 to 10 feet in each direction.
MARTINSBURG – Some significant changes have been made to the 11-year-old Roaring Brook Wind Farm project.
The Town of Martinsburg Planning Board meeting on Feb. 13 was dedicated to a preliminary run-through of changes to the project as evaluated in the latest environmental review questions.
Although the final determination of who will be tasked with performing the review cannot be made until March, the town’s attorney, Mark Gebo, indicated it would likely be the planning board’s responsibility.
To ensure the board understood the updated documents provided by Avangrid Renewables, parent company of the project, and the task at hand, Mr. Gebo took the board through the 18-question survey and changes made to the project.
“You’ve already done an environmental review of the entire project,” said Mr. Gebo, “So all you’re really reviewing here are just the changes.”
The project now consists of 39 turbines instead of 20, many of which will be taller than the originals, nine miles of upgraded roads instead of 10, a shorter total length of access roads and a shorter distance between the generator and substation requiring a shorter collection line.
Most concerning of the changes, according to the board, was the new position of the raised collection line through a wetland area.
“The overhead collection line route has changed significantly,” said John Hecklau, principal for environmental services for Environmental Design and Research, Avangrid’s environmental consultant on the project, “Previously, it had gone down the hill and to the east but now it’s going more to the north west towards Rector Road.”
The new line position will require some deforestation and may cause changes to the water during the building process, like making it cloudier or having more sediment.
Board members raised concerns that if logging went into winter months, the trucks might damage the snowmobile trails, but Mr. Hecklau said French Road was left out of the revised project to reduce that risk. Flat Rock Road will be the primary road used, according to the discussion.
“We are currently going through the wetland permitting process,” said Mr. Hecklau. “They have to approve the impact and we have to mitigate those impacts in terms of a wetlands loss: there may be more loss but there will be more mitigation to make up for it,” said Mr. Hecklau.
Mr. Gebo said that if the project destroys 100 acres of wetland, Avangrid will make another 100 acres available somewhere else.
The taller towers also raised a number of environmental concerns with about 2-foot deeper footprints of about 12 to 14 feet, well below the 3-foot water table depth in the lower areas of the project site, covering a wider area by 5 to 10 feet in each direction.
“The lowlands are mostly being avoided for the turbines,” Mr. Hecklau said, ensuring he would verify whether or not larger turn-around areas would be needed to accommodate the larger turbines, thereby disturbing more ground.
Both the wetlands disturbance and taller towers could have a negative impact on other vegetation and animals, especially the northern long eared bat which, while no longer on the endangered list, is still a protected species.
“Avanagrid is committed to operating in a manner that will not have an adverse effect on that species,” Mr. Hecklau said.
Updated documents are not posted on Avangrid’s website and the company is not required to do so because the project began before the Article 10 process requiring full transparency had not yet been initiated.
A public hearing about the project’s changes will be held before the planning board’s next meeting on March 6. The board will likely complete the environmental review questionnaire at that time.
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