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Major snowmobile trail at risk due to Avangrid Renewable’s new desire for paved turbine access  

The Valley Snow Travelers snowmobile club, which grooms the Flat Rock Road trail, doesn’t see the suggested “alternative” as a true alternative and club President Joshua Stoffle said he doesn’t understand why Avangrid suddenly needs the road plowed and paved when it knew the weather and road conditions when it chose the location and said it would not disturb the trail.

Credit:  By Julie Abbass | www.nny360.com ~~

MARTINSBURG – An offer by renewable energy giant Avangrid to pave a seasonal road that is considered one of the most important and frequently used snowmobile trails on Tug Hill has caused concern in some, hope in others and ultimately, the first few of many discussions on the idea.

Representatives of the town of Martinsburg including Supervisor Terrence Thisse and Highway Superintendent Tyler Jones, snowmobile clubs and county officials including Board Chairman Lawrence Dolhof, County Manager Ryan Piche and Legislator Joshua Leviker, gathered last week to discuss the offer made by Avangrid’s Roaring Brook Wind Farm Plant Manager Tod Nash via Mr. Jones and discussed in the town’s Jan. 5 organizational meeting.

“Highway Superintendent Jones reported that Todd Nash from Roaring Brook Wind Project is offering to pay to have Flat Rock Road to Joe’s Pond Road – town line —paved,” the minutes said. “No paving will be done on Carey Road.”

That distance, according to Mr. Leviker, who is also a member of a snowmobile club and president of the county Snowmobiling Association, is about 3.5 miles of trail on seasonal road and some of the most used and “crucial” trails in the whole system because it connects the lower trails to the upper trails.

Mr. Leviker and a number of other people in clubs or those owning snowmobile-related businesses gathered at a meeting to discuss how to grow the snowmobiling industry in the county with the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Agency last week and spoke about the negative impact the closure of that section of trail would have on the recreational sport and income for businesses throughout the county but especially on Tug Hill, which is a premier snowmobiling destination because of its excessive and regular annual snowfall.

Some people at the meeting said they were puzzled because of Avangrid’s promise not to interfere with snowmobiling during the project development stage.

For Mr. Thisse, however, Avangrid’s offer is an opportunity to avoid issues other towns have faced because of seasonal residents on minimal maintenance roads deciding to stay year-round.

“As I explained to several people … the minimum maintenance road issue has not been resolved yet and experience from the town of west Turin indicates that if we had somebody that wanted to live on one of these minimum maintenance roads, we could possibly lose the lawsuit and have to plow the road,” Mr. Thisse said. “With that in mind, if somebody is going to offer to pave a road for us so that we can plow it, we as a town board have to consider that. It’s either do it now or wait 10 years until somebody wants to live there and have the taxpayers pay for it. And that’s how we have to look at it.”

West Turin was required to pave a road designated as a “minimum maintenance road,” like Flat Rock Road, because a resident who purchased a piece of land and built a seasonal home decided to remain in the home year-round and petitioned the town to plow the road. When the town refused, a lengthy court case and appeal ensued and ended in the resident’s favor, compelling the town to plow the road.

To do that without damaging the plow trucks, the road needed to be paved.

From the town’s perspective, that doesn’t mean a snowmobile can’t go through the area, but they will “suggest” that Avangrid could allow snowmobilers to use the company’s extensive access roads connecting their 20 turbines to each other as well as the cleared areas around the power lines for a trail work-around.

“The town board has looked at it that way that there are alternatives. They may not be the easiest, but there are alternatives and the town of Martinsburg would be partially in the same situation as the other towns in the county that have snowmobile trails on private property,” he said.

The Valley Snow Travelers snowmobile club, which grooms the Flat Rock Road trail, doesn’t see the suggested “alternative” as a true alternative and club President Joshua Stoffle said he doesn’t understand why Avangrid suddenly needs the road plowed and paved when it knew the weather and road conditions when it chose the location and said it would not disturb the trail.

“I have nothing against renewable energy, I’m all for it, but there’s other windmills out there (on Tug Hill), a different company, and they don’t plow trails to it,” he said. “They have equipment to get there and these guys (Avangrid) have equipment to get there, too, without plowing the road. Through putting (the turbines) up they used that equipment to get in, so why can’t they use that equipment to get in there now?”

He also believes that the economic impact on local businesses will go much further than the Flat Rock Inn but will affect businesses all the way to Barnes Corners.

“As far as I know it’s not a done deal,” Mr. Stoffle said. “But in my opinion, I feel it will dramatically affect snowmobiling.”

Mr. Leviker said Thursday afternoon that progress was already made in that the town was looking beyond the gift of a free paved road into the long-term impact of a road needing repairs after snowmobilers ride on it anyway versus plowing a gravel road that can suit the wind company’s needs.

Initially, county representatives at the meeting said the road wouldn’t be built until 2023 if it was going to happen, so there is plenty of time to work through the process, but for now, negotiations will continue.

Avangrid representatives did not respond to calls for comment.

Source:  By Julie Abbass | www.nny360.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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