LOWELL — The Vermont Public Utilities Commission gave Green Mountain Power permission to disturb about an acre of land at the Lowell Mountain wind project to relocate stormwater runoff areas.
The commission’s order issued Friday is an amendment to the 2011 certificate of public good that allowed GMP and its partners, Vermont Electric Cooperative and VELCO to raise the 21 large turbines on the Lowell ridgeline, the second large wind project constructed in Vermont.
GMP requested expedited review of the project on July 22 because four separate stormwater runoff controls called level spreaders are actually outside the property boundaries.
The commission found that the proposed changes by GMP “raise the potential for significant impact under several criteria of Section 248 and therefor require an amendment to GMP’s CPG.
“We also determined that, subject to conditions, the proposed changes will not result in any undue adverse impacts … ” provided GMP follows directions from state experts with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, the commission wrote.
The Lowell wind turbines, called Kingdom Community Wind, were among the first large wind projects in Vermont. They have the capacity to produce 63 megawatts of electricity. A large section of the mountain has been preserved in mitigation for the disturbance on the mountaintop.
The commission issued a certificate of public good in 2011 for the wind turbines, complete with permission to install level spreaders and other stormwater controls located along the access road to the top of the mountain, and along the crane path used to construct the site and raise the turbines.
GMP has a stormwater discharge permit from ANR for 16 stormwater ponds, 31 level spreaders, five grass channels and one infiltration basin.
On July 22, GMP filed a petition for changes to the original certificate to move or replace four level spreaders.
“According to GMP, the changes are needed to correct an unintended mapping discrepancy that resulted in portions of the four level spreaders extending beyond the Project parcel and into surrounding land parcel that were preserved as mitigation for Project impacts,” according to the commission’s order.
Relocation means GMP can avoid “entering the mitigation parcels to perform periodic maintenance that includes removing accumulated sediment and recompacting crushed stone within the level spreaders.
“The relocation will also ensure that all Project infrastructure is on land controlled by GMP and will address the underlying landowner’s desire that all Project features be located on the Kingdom Community Wind project parcel,” the commission states.
The work doesn’t require a state wetland permit. GMP has approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for limited impacts on a small Class III wetland, the commission notes.
ANR has issued a work permit with conditions that GMP look for invasive species in the next few years while allowing the disturbed ares to return to a natural state as much as possible. ANR did not oppose the project.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment did oppose it.
VCE states that “the proposed changes raise significant issues with respect to headwaters, streams, soil erosion, waste disposal, and invasive species,” the commission notes.
VCE, which has opposed industrial grade and mountaintop wind projects, wanted the commission to order GMP to hire independent experts to evaluate the site, report the contents of sediment at the site, and conduct invasive species monitoring for the life of the project.
The commission stated that ANR’s requirements address the impacts of the work, and say that VCE is challenging the effectiveness of level spreaders on Lowell Mountain, an issue that was litigated and resolved in 2011.