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Expert: Road for turbines is harmless

Green Berkshires is alleging that a proposed 35-foot wide access road to the top of the ridge would harm vegetation and wildlife along 12 different points where the access road would cross intermittent streams that flow down the mountain.

BOSTON — A wetlands expert for the proponents of a 20-turbine wind power project on a mountaintop in the town of Florida said that a proposed access road to the site would not disturb the ecosystem in streams that flow down the mountain.


Jeffrey S. Simmons, a wetlands scientist hired by California-based enXco Inc., said there isn't enough vegetation along the streams to be concerned about once the gravel access roads are built up the 2,500-foot Bakke Mountain.

"In essence, you have a channel that lacks vegetation," said Simmons, who works with the firm Woodlot Alternatives Inc. of Topsham, Maine. "The vegetation is not significant to any wildlife habitat."

Hearings are continuing in Boston on the proposed $40 million wind turbine project proposed for Bakke Mountain and Crum Hill in Monroe.

The Division of Administrative Law Appeals is considering an appeal filed by Green Berkshires, a group of opponents to the project, of a permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection in November 2004 that gave the project a green light.

Green Berkshires is alleging that a proposed 35-foot wide access road to the top of the ridge would harm vegetation and wildlife along 12 different points where the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

BOSTON — A wetlands expert for the proponents of a 20-turbine wind power project on a mountaintop in the town of Florida said that a proposed access road to the site would not disturb the ecosystem in streams that flow down the mountain.


Jeffrey S. Simmons, a wetlands scientist hired by California-based enXco Inc., said there isn't enough vegetation along the streams to be concerned about once the gravel access roads are built up the 2,500-foot Bakke Mountain.

"In essence, you have a channel that lacks vegetation," said Simmons, who works with the firm Woodlot Alternatives Inc. of Topsham, Maine. "The vegetation is not significant to any wildlife habitat."

Hearings are continuing in Boston on the proposed $40 million wind turbine project proposed for Bakke Mountain and Crum Hill in Monroe.

The Division of Administrative Law Appeals is considering an appeal filed by Green Berkshires, a group of opponents to the project, of a permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection in November 2004 that gave the project a green light.

Green Berkshires is alleging that a proposed 35-foot wide access road to the top of the ridge would harm vegetation and wildlife along 12 different points where the access road would cross intermittent streams that flow down the mountain.

At 10 of those points where the proposed road crosses a stream, the developer has proposed installing a newly designed type of culvert, known as an "open bottom culvert," which the proponents say does less damage to the stream bed and retains the natural habitat for aquatic life.

Green Berkshires alleges that that the project would result in 475 linear feet of stream banks being altered so that plant life would be destroyed. Under the Wetlands Protection Act, if a project alters more than 50 feet of stream bank, the developer is required to mitigate those impacts by studying the issue further or replicating the bank area that was changed.

But enXco has insisted that because the project is using open-bottom culvert technology at 10 of the stream crossings, less than 50 feet of stream bank would be altered.

Eleanor Tillinghast, president of Green Berkshires and a Great Barrington
resident, said that the appeal is narrowly focused on the superseding order of conditions by the DEP, and not on the merit of the project as a whole.

"We're saying that the provisions of the Wetlands Protection Act have not been satisfied by the review and the decision by the DEP," Tillinghast said after the hearing. "We feel as though there wasn't a sufficient review of the site."

Gregory McGregor, the attorney for enXco, said after the hearing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires that open bottom culverts be used for streams that flow year-round. However, the streams at the project site are intermittent, only flowing during periods of heavy rain or during the snow melt in the spring, which means that enXco is exceeding the requirements, McGregor said.

"We're using them where we don't have to," he said. "The issue here is whether the appellant can prove whether there is anything wrong with the open-bottom culvert technology. They have the burden of proof."

The matter is being argued before an administrative law judge, who will then make a recommendation to DEP Commissioner Robert Golledge as to whether the DEP permit should be approved, rejected or amended.

The DEP is also a party to the case, and lawyers for the agency plan to call their own witnesses, including wetlands chief Robert McCallum.

There are two hearing dates tentatively scheduled for February, and it's not known when the matter will be concluded.

The Hoosac Wind project was originally proposed in 2001. It has received subdivision permits from both Florida and Monroe, in addition to approvals from both local conservation commissions.

In addition, the project has a "general access permit" from the state Highway Department, and a stormwater permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Source: http://berkshireeagle.com/h...

JAN 25 2006
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