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Wind utility permit conditions still a concern

Despite Highland New Wind Development's request for streamlined treatment from state agencies, the Department of Historic Resources has determined the company must still submit a detailed site plan and visual impact study, particularly because its proposed 39-megawatt wind energy utility would be near a protected Civil War battlefield.

State agency, Highland residents seek more information from developer

MONTEREY - Despite Highland New Wind Development's request for streamlined treatment from state agencies, the Department of Historic Resources has determined the company must still submit a detailed site plan and visual impact study, particularly because its proposed 39-megawatt wind energy utility would be near a protected Civil War battlefield.

Last fall, the DHR officials visited Allegheny Mountain where HNWD plans to build about 20 towers standing 400 feet above the ridgeline. HNWD owner H.T. "Mac" McBride and his attorney, Sen. Mark Obenshain, had taken issue with DHR's request for a visual impact study of the project site, among other things.

DHR said it might consider revising its request after the visit, but a Jan. 15 letter from agency director Kathleen Kilpatrick to McBride states that DHR still needs the study in order to complete its review under directives from the State Corporation Commission, which are attached to the company's state permit.

"Your part of the commonwealth is truly a natural treasure," Kilpatrick told McBride. "Our tour of the project area provided a valuable opportunity to understand the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

State agency, Highland residents seek more information from developer

MONTEREY - Despite Highland New Wind Development's request for streamlined treatment from state agencies, the Department of Historic Resources has determined the company must still submit a detailed site plan and visual impact study, particularly because its proposed 39-megawatt wind energy utility would be near a protected Civil War battlefield.

Last fall, the DHR officials visited Allegheny Mountain where HNWD plans to build about 20 towers standing 400 feet above the ridgeline. HNWD owner H.T. "Mac" McBride and his attorney, Sen. Mark Obenshain, had taken issue with DHR's request for a visual impact study of the project site, among other things.

DHR said it might consider revising its request after the visit, but a Jan. 15 letter from agency director Kathleen Kilpatrick to McBride states that DHR still needs the study in order to complete its review under directives from the State Corporation Commission, which are attached to the company's state permit.

"Your part of the commonwealth is truly a natural treasure," Kilpatrick told McBride. "Our tour of the project area provided a valuable opportunity to understand the scope and scale of the project and to develop strategies for how you might best address the concerns regarding impacts to historic resources."

DHR officials were given a tour of McBride's property, and historic Camp Allegheny close by in West Virginia, a Civil War battlefield and encampment site.

Kilpatrick explained to McBride that although the DHR has no authority to permit or deny his right to proceed with the utility, the SCC "does stipulate that (HNWD) shall consult with DHR on necessary studies and to minimize impacts to historic resources." Also, she noted, Highland County's approval carries the condition that the project minimize "broader impacts."

Kilpatrick said that since the site visit, DHR staff compiled "critical" information from various groups, including the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program, Monongahela National Forest, and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. "An analysis conducted by the Jennings Gap Partnership for the SVBF," she said, "concludes that the proposed wind project is 'likely to be clearly visible to travelers on U.S. Route 250 and to visitors to the top of Allegheny.' This study goes on to detail the historical significance and integrity of the battlefield and corroborates its national importance as recognized by its listing in the National Register of Historic Places."

Armed with that information, Kilpatrick said, DHR again recommends HNWD assess the visual impact to Camp Allegheny and the Battle of Allegheny Mountain "using detailed photosimulations and narrative discussions."

The analysis, she said, should be done by a qualified professional and consider key locations and lines of sight related to the camp and battled.

"It should be noted that this analysis will only be useful if based on a valid site plan that details the locations of the proposed towers and associated facilities," she wrote. "To date, we have not reviewed such a plan and, accordingly, cannot advise you on how that plan might be adjusted to minimize the effects to historic resources as directed by the SCC's order."

DHR did agree no further architectural survey was needed. Archaeological surveys, however, will be required, Kilpatrick said.

"As we discussed during our visit, much of the project area has diminished archaeological potential as evidenced by the absence of topsoil and exposed bedrock. Once a site plan is developed and a grading plan finalized, these areas of minimal archaeological potential could be identified by a qualified archaeologist and excluded from any survey. Please continue to consult with DHR on the scope of this study," Kilpatrick wrote.

She directed any further questions from McBride about the need for the studies to the SCC or Highland County. This is at least the third time DHR has asked the company for a visual impact study and site plan; the first request was made more than two years ago.

Landowners concerned about Laurel Fork

Highland supervisors got a letter from landowners Lucile Miller and McChesney Goodall this week thanking them for supporting their efforts to understand how McBride's facility might impact Laurel Fork, the trout stream that runs downhill from the McBride property to theirs.

Both had asked the board to help them get information about how the construction and operation of the plant might affect the watershed in time for them to evaluate that before HNWD is issued a building permit. The board agreed to do so.

"We are pleased that the (board of supervisors) shares our concerns about the possible negative impacts to he stream and other environmental resources," they wrote. "We also appreciate the wording of the conditional use permit that you issued, which specifies that the detailed site plan required for the project 'shall be designed to mitigate the impact of the permitted use on nearby property owners and the natural environment.' Since we have nearly three miles of frontage on Laurel Fork, we are the ones who would suffer the greatest impact from degradation of this pristine trout stream. Having repeatedly demonstrated our commitment to permanently protecting Laurel Fork for future generations, it is incumbent on the board to involve us in the process, providing assurances that the proposed wind project, if built, will not cause irreparable harm to the stream."

Miller and Goodall outlined what they needed to know, noting HNWD has responsibility for the original analysis, "but the burden of determining whether or not the (erosion and sediment control) plan and site plan meet the requirements of the conditional use permit falls to the (board) and those who will be impacted ... We trust that the project will not go forward until all are satisfied that the impacts to the nearby property owners and natural environment have been mitigated to the fullest extent possible."

Miller and Goodall said they are putting a team of experts together to advise them, and ask that HNWD provide information such as:

• The location of all streams, wetlands, and springs;
• Soil and geological maps;
• Information on existing land use and land cover like forest ages and types, and areas used for agriculture or under timber management;
• Location of drainage systems on existing roads;
• An assessment of past land use impacts on water in the Laurel Fork watershed; and
• An assessment of how the blasting and drilling for the project construction might affect the hydrology of the area.

They hope to get that information when it's available so they will have time for their experts to advise them.

Further, they asked for access to the site property if needed, to evaluate those conditions that might impact Laurel Fork.

"Thank you for working with us on this issue of importance to the many who know and enjoy the benefits of a healthy stream and watershed system," they added.

This week, supervisor David Blanchard said the request from Miller and Goodall appeared to ask for pretty much what any good erosion and sediment control plan would provide.

HNWD already submitted a preliminary E&S plan to the board, which has been passed on to the board's engineering firm. Blanchard expects the plan will not be evaluated until HNWD submits
a site plan.


Source: http://www.therecorderonlin...

JAN 29 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18814-wind-utility-permit-conditions-still-a-concern
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