I have heard (but cannot say for sure) that this is the first commercial wind project approved on national forest land. If you know of others, please comment and let us know.
Here’s the link.
KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
SEARSBURG — The U.S. Forest Service has decided to approve 15 of the 17 wind turbines proposed on public land by Deerfield Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables.
Together the turbines will produce 30 megawatts of power. Eight turbines will be located on a ridge line to the west of Route 8 in Readsboro, while seven will be built to the east in Searsburg. The project area will take up around 80 acres, with the turbines painted off-white and spaced half a mile apart. At roughly 400 feet high, each will have flashing red lights in the nighttime.
The decision was issued by Colleen Pelles Madrid, forest supervisor for the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest, who said it is consistent with a decision made in 2009 by the Vermont Public Service Board giving the project a certificate of public good.
The decision comes with the approval of 4.5 miles of new roadway and the upgrading of 1.03 miles to existing roads, which will impact 47 acres of forest.
The decision is being criticized by Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which according to its website is a non-profit group that promotes environmental health.
“Conflict of interest”
“The decision is based on a process plagued with conflict of interest — experts were working for Iberdrola, the developer on a wind project in New Hampshire, at the same time they prepared the supposedly independent analysis for the Forest Service,” said Annette Smith, executive director of VCE, contending the project adversely affects the nearby George D. Aiken Wilderness.
The group says the project also impacts bear habitat and does more damage than it prevents in terms of offsetting carbon emissions.
Ethan Ready, spokesman for the Green Mountain National Forest, said the forest service has been working on the phases of the environmental impact assessment since 2004. He said a draft statement was issued in 2008, then a supplemental draft in 2010. The final assessment is over 400 pages and can be found at http://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/fs-usda-pop.php?project=7838.
The final document at the bottom of the page is the decision and record.
He said the public comment period was also extended, netting over 1,000 comments and prompting the forest service to directly respond to about half.
Ready said once a legal notice is posted in the Rutland Herald, the service’s paper of record, there will a 45-day appeal period. Ready said anyone who expressed an interest in the project during a formal comment period can appeal the decision.
It will be interesting to follow the appeal and points raised, if an appeal is filed.