(Host) A new potential roadblock has been raised to a commercial wind farm that developers want to build in Ira and Poultney.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says the ridgelines being considered for the project are rare and irreplaceable natural areas that should be protected.
VPR’s Nina Keck reports.
(Keck) Eric Sorenson is an ecologist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. He says if you look around, you’ll see much of Vermont is still forested.
(Sorenson) "But one of the biggest changes that’s happening in Vermont is the extent that that forest, as you see it from the air, is being fragmented inside by roads, by houses, by other types of development."
(Keck) Sorenson says that’s why the state is taking a special interest in the land west of Rutland that’s being considered for a commercial wind farm.
He says Herrick Mountain and the surrounding hills comprise one of the largest unfragmented forest habitats in the Taconic Mountains – more than 23,000 acres.
And it’s those undeveloped acres that he says help preserve Vermont’s wildlife and plant life, and helps to control natural processes like water runoff.
(Sorensen) "The biggest concern is that the turbines and the roads and power lines result in a large area being cleared and it’s not just at the edge of this large area chunk of forest. It’s right in the middle of it."
(Keck) He says there aren’t many development projects in Vermont where you need to build 14 or 15 miles of new roads.
(Sorenson) "It’s a much more permanent change than a logging operation which our forests have sustained for hundreds of years."
(Keck) Vermont Community Wind Farm is considering erecting wind turbines on 34 potential sites.
Jeff Wennberg, the company’s community outreach director, says they’re assessing what steps they can take to lesson the impact on the area, including staying away from especially sensitive areas and making access roads as small as possible.
(Wennberg) "It does require some study, investigation and conversations back and forth and that’s what we’ve been engaged in the last few months."
(Keck) Wennberg says it’s important to have the support of state agencies when they seek permits from the Public Service Board. He says it’s somewhat challenging for them, however, because the state hasn’t raised the issue of fragmenting large tracts of land before.
(Wennberg) "So it is a brand new kind of regulatory concept that the Public Service Board has never had to address, that the Environmental Court has had to address, that’s never been raised in Act 250 before."
(Keck) Wennberg says Vermont Community Wind will be watching to see how the issue affects a much smaller proposed wind farm in Georgia, Vermont, that’s currently working its way through the permit process.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.